Sorry; this one is a little long.
I turned 7 the summer before my 2nd grade year. My Uncle Bobo (in the picture above) was living in a travel trailer on our land. We loved this. He was one of our youngest uncles, and he paid a lot of attention to us. We got to spend a lot of time with him while he was staying with us, and he was one of our favorite relatives ever.
On the day of my 7th birthday, my Dad gathered the 3 of us older kids and told us to go outside and clean up the yard. This was one of our chores we had to do periodically. I immediately felt very grumbly in my heart, thinking it so unfair I had to clean the yard on my birthday - what kind of birthday was this?
As soon as I walked outside, I saw my new, blue bicycle, complete with a flowerdy basket. (My dad fooled me!) I really liked that bike and spent a lot of time on it. We lived on 10 acres in the woods, with a steep, gravelly driveway, but still I rode my bike. I rode it around the house on the grass. There was a stump at one end of my house, and I would start there, pretending I was in a bike club. I'd "talk" all of the characters in my head. I'd make up little goals and races for us. We also had 2 driveways, and there was a small stretch on the highway between these drives. I would go up there and ride as fast as I could to the other driveway before any cars came.
This is my second grade picture.
This would be the last time I had short hair until my senior year of college.
My teacher's name was Mrs. Sullivan, but I can't conjure up her exact face in my head. I did really love her, though. One of my favorite things about second grade was this end-of-the-year book sale my teacher set up in our room. My memory says that somehow we earned reading bucks all year, and she had accumulated a lot of books and posters, etc. She sat them all around the room - all along the chalkboard tray, etc. - and I remember being SO thrilled, walking around, spending my bucks. I feel the same way when I'm at a Scholastic Book Fair today.
Somebody else mentioned the book mobile in one of their stories.
Wasn't the book mobile awesome? Do they have those anymore?
I started taking piano lessons in first grade. My mom drove me 10-15 minutes to a neighboring town for my lessons each week. I have this one page from my old lessons notebook. Bone Sweet Bone sure brings back memories. (Bone, sweet bone; bone, sweet bone; that's my favorite song. Bone, sweet bone; bone, sweet bone; sing it loud and strong!")
I wrote in this letter to Aunt Patsy:
"You were right. I can never wait to take piano lessons and I really like to take piano lessons. We just got my piano the other day. My piano teachers name is Marilyn Posey shes real nice."
I'm pretty sure I was playing Country Gardens in this picture. It became the go-to entertainment when friends and family came over to visit. "Jenny, play Country Gardens."
I can still play it for you, if you want.
Apparently, I won a coloring contest.
I had one of my rare moments of glory in the 2nd grade. Basically, I beat the entire elementary school in a spelling bee. Including my brother who was two grades ahead of me.
We had spelling bees in my classroom for weeks leading up to the big event at night. The top winners from each class competed in front of parents and everyone in the cafeteria. The winners from each grade competed against each other. It seems bizarre to me now that they might pair up a 1st or 2nd grader against a 6th grader but not so bizarre, I guess, since I won. (I also got 3rd place overall in 1st grade...if it sounds like I'm bragging, please just let me; I haven't accomplished a lot since then.) I can't remember my winning word, but I do remember sometime during the evening spelling the words chocolate, mountain, and blood. We also had to use the words in a sentence. I remember pausing for a few seconds before I could think of, "There was blood on her arm." When they announced me as the winner, my teacher jumped up off the cafeteria table seat and came at me, hollering with her arms up in the air, and she gave me a big hug.
Now, before you get too impressed, I need to let you know...there were only 10-20 kids in each grade. (We only had 10, but the average was 15-20.) Our enrollment was so small that 1st/2nd were in a classroom together (to make the size of a normal class: 20-25), 3rd/4th, and 5th/6th. Thinking back to my school, it's really amazing to think there were only 4 classrooms going on down that hall.
The jr. high/high school was in a different building across the gravel parking lot. That's where the cafeteria and library were, also. I'm trying to remember how we made it to lunch in the rain. Once I was running with my classmates to the other building, and I fell flat on my face. My knee got a pretty bad gash from a rock and maybe even glass. I had a little scar on my knee most of life; it's almost faded now.
I was voted to be Miss Merry Christmas in my class. The girls step out of the classroom, and the boys vote. And the boys walk out, then the girls vote. We had to put our heads down on our desk and raise our hands to vote.
This reminds me of one of my favorite elementary games: Thumps-Up Seven-Up. Who remembers that? A few people go to the front of the class while everyone else puts their heads down on their desk, with one thumb up. The chosen people go around and each push down one thumb, then return to the front. If your thumb was chosen, you stood up when the teacher said it was time. You had to guess who picked your thumb. I loved games like this, but I found them pretty embarrassing, too. It was embarrassing to say someone's name, then be wrong. As if they might think, "Why would I have picked you?"
And that reminds me of my 5 year old son last weekend. He was playing a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey type game at our Highlights Magazine Party. He put the tail far from where it was supposed to be, so he threw a fit and ran around the house to hide in embarrassment. I wouldn't have thrown the fit when I was little (He's a testosterone-filled version of me.), but I hate that he has inherited my awkward self-consciousness.
I actually won the vote for Miss Merry Christmas in 1st grade, too. But when my teacher told me, I started crying and said I didn't want to do it. I was way too embarrassed to think about linking arms with a BOY in front of so many people. I guess I was ready for the spotlight by 2nd grade. That's Allen Jennings and me. I wonder if my mom could have found any thicker knee socks.
Second Grade wasn't all fun, though. I missed a total of a month of school. I remember standing outside on the playground, thinking, "Wow, I suddenly don't feel very good all of the sudden." I apparently had the chicken pox. So did my brother and sisters. Obviously, that wasn't fun.
I also got pneumonia. Really bad. (I can tell I look a little sick in my Missy Merry Christmas picture; I was just recovering then.) I was sitting at one of my doctor's appointments, and my mom was crying. She was worried I was going to die. She still had this receipt dated January 1, 1983. It says "recheck pneumonia." The fee was $12. Dr. Shwartz was such a sweet, old man. I remember driving up to the black and white doctor's building, and the nice, small elevator man (who later got shot to death at his front door...so awful). I also have this memory of my brother lying on his stomach on the examining table, with his pants down. He was whining and crying; I don't know if he was getting a shot or receiving medicine rectally. I just remember feeling really sorry for him.
I had my first 3 experiences with death during these years.
One, my great-grandmother, the only great-grandparent I ever knew, died. My dad was standing by the kitchen table, and I was coming down the hallway. He paused and said, "Granny died." I felt pretty matter-of-fact about it; I don't think I cried. I loved her, but she was a very formal, rather hard woman. I liked sitting on the floor and looking at the old cat calendars she had in a stack. I know she loved me, too, because she never missed one of my birthdays without giving me a card with money. But instead of hugging me with a loving embrace or anything, she'd just sit in her chair (It was hard for her to get around.) and sternly say, "There's a card for you on the tv." In her will, she left me her hope chest because I was her first great-granddaughter. I also got one of her necklaces while the family was cleaning out her house. It's one of the necklaces I wear the most, to this very day. I wore it as a good-luck charm during my basketball games in elementary.
Also, our custodian, Kenneth, died at school. He had a heart attack while mowing the field. I bawled in my dark bedroom over this one. I thought I would never stop feeling sad about it.
My brother's best friend, Jamie, died, too. I really had a hard time processing this. We got a call one morning before school, and my mom had to break the news to my brother. He sat in the recliner with his arms hugging his knees and his head down, sobbing. I didn't cry, but I wanted to. Instead, I acted out. I was being cranky, and I'm sort of proud of my mom. Instead of getting on to me, she realized I just couldn't process my feelings. She said, "It's okay to be sad."
About 15 years later, I got an amazing surprise in the mail. Jamie's parents read in the newspaper that I was going on a mission trip to Jamaica, and it was in their hearts to send me an extremely generous check to help pay for it. That will always stick with me.
This was my last year at this school. I don't remember if I knew this on my way out because I don't really remember saying good-bye to everyone - Jason, Tracey, Kim, Kelly, Kristy, Allen, Rachel, Julie, and Amos. I cried several nights before I fell asleep. They were such a big part of my life, but I didn't keep in touch with any of them. I would see them from time to time around town or later at school events, and I wouldn't talk to them. This is one way I have always hated being shy. (I did talk to Jason in highschool a couple of times.) I am now friends on facebook with Tracey. She said one of her only memories is of the two of us getting in a fight over a stick. She pulled the stick away from me, and it really hurt my hands. But she got in trouble for it.
A few other random memories from those first few years. I never got in trouble, but if we broke a rule in Mr. Stintzi's class, we had to draw a circle on the chalkboard and stand there with our nose in it. He caught me leaning back with my chair, which was a big no-no. I was horrified that my teacher I adored made me do that.
I also remember one year my teacher had to be gone one day during the end-of-the-year scholastic tests, and we had a substitute. I felt really upset and emotional that my teacher was gone. I started crying, and when they asked me why I was crying, I just said I was "sick." I had to go lie on the bed in the hallway and make up my tests on another day. (We actually had a hospital bed in the hallway of our school, used for kids who weren't feeling well.)
I got my first lessons in "the birds and the bees" from my friend, Kim. She was always a little advanced. At the supper table one night, I held up my middle finger. I said, "Kim said this was dirty. I told her it wasn't." My mom just sort of told me not to do that; I don't think she gave me any explanation. I think explanations were hard for my parents. I also announced at the supper table one night that "Kim said babies come out of your ____ (insert somewhere they do not actually come out of), but I was sure that wasn't true because I knew they just got cut out of your stomach." (Any other explanation seemed an absolute impossibility.) My mom shushed me and told me we would talk about it later.
I was kind of a nerd (remember: I did workbooks for fun and sometimes crocheted at recess) now that I think about it. For one show and tell, I said I wanted to recite a poem I memorized. "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all."
I remember "getting married" to Kristy on the playground. I also remember Kelly raising her shirt on the playground in front of the boys. I told the teacher.
One year, I organized the "Flower Club" at recess. Everyone was assigned a "flower" name. I made little name badges for everyone with pictures of flowers glued on circles of cardboard. I wrote the name of the flower under the picture. (That is so me.)
I've enjoyed reading the stories of everyone in my group.
It's fun to see how everyone's experiences were so different than my own.