The year was 1962. I’m 5 years old in this photo. It’s the first of 13 school pictures I would take while attending K-12 at Keytesville R-III Schools. I remember every detail of the dress I wore for this picture. It was shades of blue, pink and purple. The points of the collar were a heavy tatting-type lace. My ribbons were blue satin, and I remember Mama pinning that tiny little bouquet of flowers onto my collar. They were pink and blue forget-me-nots made of fabric.
Kindergarten was my first venture into the world without my family. I remember Mama drove me to school on the first day. I can still hear the sound of my new shoes against the gravel as we walked to the door, Mama holding my hand tightly. She told me how much fun I would have going to school, how I would make lots of new friends, and how I would learn all kinds of interesting things. I was excited, but not sure I wanted to be there without her. Now that I think back on it, I’m not sure Mama wanted to leave me there that day either. I was her baby, her last child.
The kindergarten room was in the basement of the elementary school. Mrs. Rosemary Woodward was my teacher’s name, and I remember how she smiled at me when Mama brought me to the door of the classroom. Her smile and her kind eyes told me things were going to be just fine, and ultimately they were. I did meet lots of new friends, just like Mama said, and I think all of us were feeling the same things that day. We were all a little scared. Nothing was familiar to any of us.
It took a few days for us to get used to our new surroundings, and to each other. The best part of the days was time spent on the playground. We had a merry-go-round, and the boys would run really fast to make it go around then jump on it so they could ride, too. We had a really tall slide that had a hump in the middle. Girls had to wear dresses to school, and on hot days the slide would burn our legs. On days like that the girls would gather on the steps and act out stories. Sometimes we would pretend to be kittens.
On one of those hot days one of my friends started to cry. We asked her what was wrong, and she said she couldn’t play with me anymore. She said her parents told her if she played with me her skin would turn black, her hair would get fuzzy and nobody would like her anymore. I started to cry, too, because I didn’t know if that was true or not, and I felt like I had done something wrong when I knew I hadn’t. I sure had never heard of anything like that. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to make them mad. She didn’t want to turn black and have fuzzy hair, but she didn’t want to stop playing with me either. So we did what children often do–we kept playing with each other and promised not to say anything unless she really did start to turn black. Then we would have to tell. The year was 1962.
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