I am older now, but remember from my childhood the cause and effect of wanting to be first. I quickly learned this behavior would set off a series of other “firsts.”
It was a lovely day….well, almost. I was in kindergarten. We had finished our daily snacks. We were all racing to be the first one outdoors. On this particular day, I decided I wanted to be first. I tossed my milk carton in the garbage and bolted by the other kids. When I approached the doors, Nancy Walters was standing there, arms folded. Her curly, blonde hair cradled her scowling face.
“Cuse, me,” I said. I stood and twirled my long, red hair around my fingers. My blue eyes looked inquisitively, awaiting Nancy’s reply.
“No!” she snapped, as she stepped towards me. Panicking, I punched her in the stomach and ran through the doors.
Moments later, my teacher, Miss Dee, grabbed me from behind. She was a tad angry. She escorted me to the principles office. Once inside, the interrogation began.
“Cassy, did you punch Nancy in the stomach?” she asked. I was not giving in. I saw her big paddle hanging nearby. No sir, I was not going down without a fight. I looked around the room eyeing the pictures on the walls. I spotted one with puppies in it. I pointed.
“Awww, looky, Miss Dee. Ain’t they cute?” I giggled and flashed Miss Dee a cheesy grin. Her mouth started to curve, but then her lips stiffened. I blinked twice, still pointing my finger towards the wall.
“You didn’t answer my question, Cassy. Did you punch Nancy in the stomach?” My eyes wandered again. Miss Dee snapped her fingers. “Cassy, I’m over here,” she said.
Within seconds, I folded. I couldn’t help it. The old woman was staring me down, straight in the eyes. My bottom lip quivered.
“Yes, Miss Dee,” I said. “I did it.”
Miss Dee walked over and grabbed the paddle. Back in those days, teachers could swat you if they desired. She asked me to stand in front of her. I obliged her and stepped forward. I looked at her with trembling knees and tears in my eyes.
“I don’t prepare to hurt you, Cassy,” she said.
She turned me sideways and told me to bend over her lap. I looked at her, pleading for mercy. What Miss Dee was doing, made no sense to me. She wasn’t prepared to hurt me, yet she still held the paddle. Miss Dee didn’t fold as I had moments earlier. I bent over her knees. Before I could reason with her any further, my first official swat ensued.
My screams drowned out all sound barriers within a five-mile radius. Miss Dee was startled. She stopped and helped me to stand. I wobbled as though I were going to faint. I had to do something. I was desperate. Hence, my first academy award winning performance followed my first swat.
Moments later, Miss Dee walked me back to class. The kids were sitting on the floor waiting for story time. I walked to the back, and sat in front of Charles. I didn’t want the kids to see I’d been crying. Miss Dee began reading.
I felt someone pulling the back of my hair. I didn’t dare complain after the corporal punishment I’d just received. This scalp plucking continued the entire time Miss Dee was reading. It hurt. Afterwards, I turned around to see Charles sitting cross-legged, with gobs of my hair in his lap. My head itched, and it was sore. I rubbed my hands all over my head, messing up my hair. My hair looked nasty, but my scalp felt better.
Later, when I got home, I got another swat, for the swat I got at school. I also got in trouble for not taking care of my hair, and ended up getting my first haircut. I was devastated.
That evening, I decided to run away. This would be my first time away from home. I packed a suitcase, making sure to pack my bear on top. My siblings were laughing hysterically. I said my goodbyes, and I walked out the front door. I wasn’t even a block away when Dad came and got me. He held me as I cried. I returned home with Dad.
Later, lying in bed, I pondered the day’s events…
Yep, it almost was a lovely day, but I just had to be first.
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