Life was easy until first grade. Sharing. Writing my name. Getting along with my class-mates. I had it down. I was treated kindly by everyone I ever met. If only we could hold onto such joy and innocence. Unfortunately, I was small for my age, red-haired, freckle faced, had a head like a lollypop and it was time to start grade-school.
Things started well enough. I had my little schedule. I would meet my bus at the end of the driveway, it would take me to the school. I had my class number. We would have class, we would have lunch, we would return to class. We would travel about in ragged lines with our class-mates. It was real school, and I was thrilled and terrified and everything else a kid should be on that day.
I met the bus on time, no problem. It didn’t take long before the bus was loaded with chattering kids and I saw a potential best friend in every little face. So I struck up a conversation, or what passes for a conversation when your six, with this other kid who sat near me. It probably went something like, “i have a dog. he has curly ears. i love dogs. i have a sister too. do you have a dog or sister?”. Now, my reading people skills were small and underdeveloped. If I had this skill I would have realized this kid didn’t like me. But I had no idea, and I was going on and on. By the time we reached the school I figured I’m set as far as best friends are concerned. We step off the bus and it’s time for me to find my classroom. It’s also time to say a very temporary goodbye to my buddy. So I shouted, “see you at lunch hour!”, and skipped off (yes, very probably skipped) into the crowd of students bottlenecked at the front doors.
A few exciting hours later I wander into the cafeteria for the first time, tray loaded with what I’m sure was a balanced and nutritious meal. My priority was finding my best friend of course. If there was anyone I could talk to about my first day at school it would be him. I heard him before I saw him. “That’s him! Lunch Hour!” Evidently he already had a group of friends. They filled one of the small round tables. I waved a cautious hello. He knew very well my name wasn’t Lunch Hour. I hear one of the other kids say, in a squeaky, nasally, sing-song, “I’ll-see-you-at-lunch-hour!”. Hmmmm. Uncomfortable. I’d received my first official nick-name. I sat somewhere else.
Though that experience was very unpleasant, and it took me months to lose that nick-name, and I lost a fat chunk of innocence and wonder, I did learn something. People are jerks and I needed a defense mechanism, or two… or three. I became cautious around strangers. To this day I sit quietly around new people until I feel they’re trustworthy.