I do not remember what type of weather we were having that day, but there are parts of the first day of school that I will never forget. My mama had bought me lots of cute little dresses and one of them was green. I had long, curly, auburn hair. She pulled the sides back and put in a barrette to hold it back and let the rest hang down loosely. I wore baby blue cat-eye glasses that had to be customized to make room for my very long eyelashes. Regular ear pieces were too short!
I was scared to death.
|Suzanne Gunter, May 1973|
Mama took me to school. It was Homeland Park Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina. Though I don't remember the trip to the school, I am sure that we walked because my mama didn't have a driver's license until I was in about the fourth grade or so. The school wasn't very far from our house, but we had to walk along what was a major road in our town at the time (an important thing to remember later on in this story!). I didn't want to go. She took me into the school and told me that she would be waiting outside when I came out. She told me later that she didn't know what she would have done had I come out of the school early and didn't find her on the porch where she said she'd be. She walked me to my classroom, me being upset the whole way. With the exception of one day at a daycare center with my twin brothers, I had never been away from mama for a long period of time. This was a first. I was freshly six years old.
I pitched such a fit that she took me into the bathroom that all of the first grader classes had at the back of the room. I know that I got a talking-to, but I do not remember if a spanking was a part of that or not. Even if it were, the rest of what happened that morning has successfully blocked out anything that my mama could have done to me that morning!
Mama left and I refused to sit at a desk. I didn't know those other kids and I didn't know that "mean old lady" that was at the big desk, either. I didn't want to. I just wanted to be back home. Things were scary there at times, too, but at least it was something that I knew. I sat in the floor as close to the
The teacher, Miss Cromer, a taller-than-me, skinny, red-head that seemed a hundred years old to me, but was possibly only a young lady in reality, stood up. I don't know what she said or what she was going to do, but she stood up and it scared me. I scooted backwards there on the floor and set that stand to swaying and then it fell. She walked towards me. She bent over and swatted me on the thigh. This stranger was hitting me. I assume that she stood her stand back up. She returned to her seat. Once she was situated, I marched my sassy little self up to her desk, hands on my hips and said in my little girl voice, "YOU BIG DUMMY!"
That didn't go over too well.
The next thing I knew, she had me bent over her stool, the one that she sat on to read to us, with my backside to the classroom for all to see, and was paddling me. I was mad and humiliated and probably scared, too. A paddling at school meant a spanking once I got home. I don't remember anything else that happened that day, not even what happened once I got home.
Mama told me later that another little girl in the class, Angie, was so scared by my fit that she ran out of the classroom and all the way back home. She had to cross that major road to get from the school to her house. She could have been killed. Thankfully she wasn't. She's probably a grandma by now. Eventually, it was Angie's mama that took me and my brothers to school and back home. Her mama was also my Bluebirds leader.
I survived that first day, but not without scars. I am terrified at just the thought of public speaking or doing anything in front of a crowd. I am a behind-the-scenes person all the way thanks to the humiliation of that moment in first grade up there on that yellow stool with my behind to the world.