There’s far more I need to get out about Red, but don’t have it in me today. Instead, I’ll move on to the next assignment of chronicling my life. I guess all therapy sessions get around to this at some point, but let me start out by saying I did not have a troubled childhood, my parents weren’t abusive alcoholics, and I don’t think I’ve got buried memories too painful to recall.
I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. I have 3 older brothers so I am not only the youngest, but the only girl. I’ve heard the stories told many times that, while my mother loves all her boys, she really wanted a girl, too. When she was pregnant with me, I think it had pretty much been decided that, girl or not, my parents were stopping at four children. My dad (in a life before I knew him) used to be big into deer and bird hunting. It was something he did with his father, who died long before I was born. Dad had a hunting trip planned with some of his buddies the day mom went into labor with me. He called his friends later to tell them he had caught himself a doe…a two-legged one! It was December when I was born and they brought me home on Christmas day in a big red Christmas stocking.
I wasn’t even a year old when my family moved to Texas, so I have no memories of ever living in Memphis, though we went back to visit regularly for many years. My dad had a job opportunity that he and several of the guys he worked with in Memphis took advantage of so he moved our family to Southeast Texas. This is where all of my childhood memories are found, starting around kindergarten. I don’t think I have any true memories earlier than that, only stories and pictures I’ve heard and seen enough to make them feel like my own. I do know that I loved school and was probably what you would call a teacher’s pet in kindergarten and first grade.
In kindergarten, I remember those blowup alphabet people were the big thing. I can’t remember what they were officially called, but I remember they were these large squarish vinyl characters and there was one for each letter of the alphabet. It seems like each one had a trait or hobby or something that started with the corresponding letter. Maybe there were songs for each one, too, but I’m pretty fuzzy on this memory. I remember we had “Grandparents’ Day” and since both of my grandfathers died before I was born, and both of my grandmothers were back in Memphis, a lady from church went to school with me as my adopted grandmother. Lila Whitford, I think. I just remember she was a sweet lady and I had fun serving her cookies and punch.
My primary memory from first grade is that we had spelling tests each week. One week, my teacher, Mrs Jackson, had lost her voice and so, me being the pet that I was, she had me sit at her desk while she called out the spelling words to me as best she could so I could take the test. After I had completed it (with a perfect score, thank you very much!) I stood in front of the class and called out the words to the class so they could take the test. Maybe I was oblivious, but I don’t recall there being any of that annoyance over the whole “teacher’s pet” situation. I got along well with the other kids and had lots of friends. Perhaps I was too naive to realize they were rolling their eyes at me behind my back, I don’t think so, but it doesn’t really matter now.
The summer after first grade, we moved further from town, just outside the city limits, so I would start 2nd grade at a new school in a much more rural, small town setting. When I first started, they had me in Mrs Handy’s class, but in less than a week, they moved me to Mrs Allen’s. There were 3 second grade classes: Mrs Allen, Mrs Davis, and Mrs Handy. It seems so terrible now, but we all knew, even back then, how the classes were divided. The “smartest” students were in Mrs Allens, then it went to Davis, then Handy. Whether they knew it or not, they had created this miniature caste system among us. When I moved to 3rd grade, it was the same setup, just 3 different teachers. But even then, it was a small school, we all knew each other and everyone got along for the most part. It’s weird to me now to realize that, even at that young age, there were cliques, and of course the “popular” kids. I like to think that even though I was popular at that time, I “played well with others.” If I’m honest with myself, I know that isn’t 100% true. I do remember making fun of a couple of kids. I feel bad about that now. The two I recall both moved away so I often wonder what happened to them and hope they are doing well.
I also remember we used to have to take the CTBS (I think that’s what it was) Test each year. I never have figured out why, but they always took me and one other student in another room, usually the teachers’ lounge, to complete our tests. We were both “brainy” but I still can’t figure out why they singled us out like that. The other student, let’s call him Hebert, and I were always at each other’s throats. We hated each other. Or at least that’s what we called it up until at least 4th or 5th grade. I think it was a competitive thing in one way, but perhaps partially a childhood crush of some sort. Because isn’t that what you do to people you like at that age? I remember Hebert actually formed a club, the [Daisy-Head] Haters club he called it. There were several boys I remember being part of it at one time or another. Seems like there was a girl or two at some point as well. I think that lasted until about 5th or 6th grade…and then, when the ringleader moved away, the club fizzled. They never really did anything but get together at recess and make faces at me. There were words exchanged, but I don’t remember any of it really being that bad. I wasn’t scarred or traumatized or driven to tears by it. Funny enough, Hebert and I recently reconnected (after 20+years!) on facebook. He seems like a likable guy and managed to hang on to his “smarts,” while I think I started to get uncomfortable with mine and “dumbing down” by junior high. Anyway, he apologized for starting that club all those years ago, and we’ve laughed about it and moved on.
In 2nd and 3rd grade I was in UIL Storytelling. This was where students from all over the region would meet and compete in different categories. For storytelling, the students were put in a room together and read a story. Afterwards, we left the room and then were taken back in one-by-one and had to retell the story from memory. To practice at school, the teachers would read me a short story in the hall and then I (and a couple of others who did it as well) had to go in front of the class to retell the story. It was fun and apparently I was pretty good at it, pausing for dramatic effect, changing my voice for different characters, and remembering the tiniest of details. I could never do that today. I can’t remember the movie I just watched, much less be able to tell someone about it in detail!
I also remember that, when I was in 3rd grade, it was all about Michael Jackson. We had small cassette players and my friend, SS, had copied his Thriller album (yes an actual RECORD) onto tape so we could listen to it at recess. Oh boy. I have to tell the whole story here. We didn’t just listen. There was a group of about 8 of us girls who would all gather around the tape player, with the album cover propped up (with him laying down in the white suit) next to it and just swoooon over him. We also danced. Every day at recess. The full routine to Beat It and Thriller from the videos. My family didn’t have MTV, but SS did so she recorded the videos for me. We learned the dances and taught the other girls. We would actually get up and PERFORM these in front of the whole school at recess. We (thought we) were so cool. We even had a Dance Off with the guys once…and a moonwalking contest. I still crack up when I think about it. It’s too bad (or is it?) there’s no videos of that. Would be hysterical to watch at a class reunion.
Perhaps one of the greatest memories of my elementary school days was on my first day of school in 2nd grade. SS, who was the principal’s daughter, came up to me on the playground and said, “Hi. I’m SS. Will you be my friend?” Of course I said yes, and I was, and we are still friends to this very day. We couldn’t have been more different from each other. She lived in the country, raised animals, was in 4-H, showed her animals at the fair. My experience with animals was limited to dogs and cats. She listened to country music and dreamed of owning a “duelie” truck when she was older. I listened to alternative music and wanted a Porsche. As we grew older, she wore Justin Ropers and Rocky Mountains. I wore crazy tights and big chunky-heeled shoes (I still do actually!). She was a good girl and I was the wild child. But ever since we met that day on the playground all those years ago, we’ve been great friends.
I think these assignments are far too broad. Or I’m too long-winded. It’s been far more than the suggested 45-minutes, and I haven’t even made it to middle school yet! Ah well, stories for another day. My hands can’t take anymore. And I’m taking a vacation day from work tomorrow to give myself (and my hands) a rest!