When I was ten years old we were living in Whitman MA. I remember my parents driving us down the street to show my sister and me our new school. It was the Pleasant Street School, grades one through six ( I don’t think there was a kindergarten class there), and our house was at the other end of Pleasant Street. Up to this point a city kid, I looked at this new school in horror and exclaimed, “How can I learn anything in a wooden school?”
When I had a birthday and turned eleven, I saw a movie with Carmen Miranda singing and wearing one of her fanciful head-dresses and a marvelous pair of cork-soled shoes on a very high platform. I yearned for a pair of cork-soled shoes, exactly like hers, naturally, and for that eleventh birthday my very dear great aunt gave me a beautiful pair of cork-soled sandals: flat heeled, as naturally befitted my age and station in life, as they say. But, the edges and straps were bright red and the linen on the front part was embroidered with a bright red tropical bird. My sweet aunt did her best to fulfill my desires and I wore the sandals happily all summer, probably pretending that I was wearing those amazing Carmen Miranda platforms. (My love of shoes began when I was about three years old.)
When I was ten, going-on-eleven, I learned how to be the new girl on the playground, no longer having my Best Friend since Grade One, at my side. The girls looked me over, a couple of them came to speak with me, asked my name and so on, but at the end of the day my sister, a first grader, and I walked home from school together.
Another day—recess again—a girl came over to me, told me her name and said, “Let’s walk around together,” so we did. (No planned games here – the boys must have done something, but kept out of the girls way as they walked around or stood in groups, talking,) At afternoon recess this same girl joined me and asked, “Would you like to be my friend?”
Quite surprised I agreed that I would be her friend and she said, “Ask your mother when you get home, if you can come to my house after school tomorrow.” We lived on the same street, and as my mother said I could go to her house, we became Best friends for a long as I lived in Whitman.
So, when I was ten going-on-eleven, I learned that I could learn something in a wooden school—more than you’d think, perhaps. It was a double-graded classroom and as I’d already covered the fifth grade work in my city school, I readily absorbed the sixth grade material I heard all day.
I learned that loving relatives will try to capture just the gift you really hope for, and perhaps succeed a bit anyway, and you feel cared about in a special way.
And I learned that while lonely and a bit scared in a new setting, a quiet manner and some pleasant words can help you make a new place for yourself, and new friends to spend time with.
And then, when I was eleven going-on-twelve…oh, but that’s another story for another day.