“Mrs. Hunter’s room is just down the hall,” the school secretary kept chatterin’
at me as I walked along beside her. I knew she was just tryin’ to be nice, but I’d
had my fill of new schools and new teachers. This was the second school this year,
and it wasn’t even Christmas yet.
“No, ma’am we’re not from around here. We’re from down south,” I swallowed
hard so’as to keep from cryin’. “My daddy works in the fields so we move around
a lot.” I got tired of tellin’ the same ole story over and over.
“Well, we’re sure glad to have you at Tobey Elementary, honey,” she put her
arm around my shoulder as we rounded the corner to number 18, my new
Miss Lewis meant well, but I knew the truth. Anybody that moved around as
much as we did was not really welcome. I could see it in her eyes. I was a
nuisance. I held my breath as the secretary knocked on the big wooden door. It
seemed like forever til it opened.
A tall, skinny, freckled-face boy stood there, just starin’ at me. “Hey, Mrs.
Hunter, the new kid’s here.” I got real scared and hid behind the secretary’s skirt.
Just because I did this a lot didn’t make it easier.
The click of heels tap, tap, tapped towards the door and a smilin’ face looked
around for me. Shyly, I peeked out from behind the secretary and looked into the
eyes of my new third grade teacher. “Well, Starisha, you’re here just in time for
show and tell. Come right on in. I have a desk ready for you over here by Kirsten.”
She took my old, beat up book bag, stuck it in a nearby cubby and led me to the
Kirsten was wearing a pretty pink sweater and pants. As I looked around, I
noticed that all the girls seemed to have nice clothes. I felt like they were sizing me
up pretty good. I squirmed and pulled at my shirt. Mama said it wasn’t too tight,
but I knew better. It was the only thing that was clean.
I plunked myself down and tried to scrunch up and make myself invisible. I
could hear whispers buzzin’ round that class like a bunch of bees. Just as I turned
my head, I spied a note tossed from one desk to another. Yep, it was just the same,
no matter what school, or town, or state.
“Boys and girls, I’d like you to meet Starisha. I want you to all make her feel
welcome. Kirsten, will you make sure she knows where the girls’ bathroom and
“Sure, Mrs. Hunter.” She eyed me like a dog starin’ at a snake. I knew already
that Kirsten wasn’t goin’ to like me. I guess it didn’t matter anways since we never
stayed long enough to make friends. I tried to look straight ahead at the blackboard
even though there wasn’t anything there.
I hoped that nobody found out what they called me at the last school. I could
still hear the kids screamin’, “Cootie bug, You’re a cootie bug.” Tears started up
just thinkin’ about it. Pullin’ my sleeve up to my face, I swiped ‘em away real quick
so nobody would notice.
I just wished I could be like everybody else with a mama and a daddy who lived
in the same house all the time. Maybe then people wouldn’t treat me different.
Maybe then I could have friends and go over to somebody’s house and play. I
could hear Daddy’s voice in my head. “Oh, Starisha, you’re just makin’ pipe
Mrs. Hunter made me jump. I felt kinda stupid cause I could hear kids gigglin’.
“Starisha, would you like to come over to the circle with us?” She took my hand
and led me over to a carpeted area with lots of pillows on the floor.
Something seemed different about her, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then she bent
over and whispered in my ear, “Jesus loves you and so do I. I’m glad you’re here.”
This time I couldn’t stop the tears that sneaked down my cheek. The teacher
seemed to see them too cause she passed me a kleenex, kinda secret like so nobody
else would see.
I looked at her plump white hand still tucked over my little black one. Then I
peeked up into her soft blue eyes. Somehow I believed her.
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