I remember nursery school in Upper Darby. The sandwiches made out of potted meat, pressed wafer thin in a wrinkled paper bag with your name on it.
Nursary school had story time. There was a steady supply of graham crackers and apple juice. Pop up books?! Who decided that you could get too old to see things pop out of books?
And at the end of the day your mother comes. You get lifted into her arms and you put your cheek on her warm neck.
There were no child safety seats back then. You and your lunchbox slide across the leather bench seat and stay there, in your mother’s warm shadow, all the way home.
That was the last time I enjoyed school.
I remember the school after that. It was a Montessori school. I wrote briefly about the long bus trip there. It became one of the reasons I can’t incorporate the nigger into my everyday vocabulary. I learned that I was the color of dog shit on that bus.
I never knew the names of those two kids. They went to a different school. They were older.
Maybe if I was a white kid they would still have been mean to me.
I wanted to sit alone, but on a bus that only had a handful of kids, they always got right behind me. Told me, very calmly, what my Blackness meant to them.
I just wanted quiet.
I had a speech impetiment. When I spoke it came out in a subliminal murmur. Listening to me was like trying to hear a drowning man through a foot of water, unless I was excited, or angry. Then I stuttered, and stammered and spit.
I remember being pulled out of class so that they could test me. Rather, the rest of the class went to story time while a pretty, pleasant woman that I had never seen before took my hand and tried to lead me to another classroom. I loved story time.
I had no intention of writing about any of this. I was going to write about how humbling it is to learn a computer language. I’ve been chewing on Ruby for a week now…
I was going to talk about how good it felt to be taking on such a nerdly challenge. You know… I’m feeling a little brainy, which a feeling that I haven’t had for a long time.
How long? That’s the question. I’m trying to think of a time in school that I didn’t feel stupid. I can’t.
I got “under achiever” a lot. That’s code for, “I thought you were way too dumb to do something like this…” But the flip side of under achiever is, if I really try hard, you’ll see how average I actually am. To me, it was better to sleep through class and shock your teacher with that lucky A, than study hard only to get a string of C’s. That A really pops on a transcript full of D’s, especially when it’s from a student that you always assumed was high.
I didn’t just dislike school. I was terrified of it. I slept because when my eyes were closed, at least a part of me could escape the classroom. I’m not sure why. I can’t blame sixteen years of scholastic misery on the actions of two racist, school bus dicks in kindergarten. But I think they put the hook in.
My step daughter went through more in her first two weeks of 7th grade, than I did in my entire Middle School career. When I picked her up last year, she sat beside me until we got off of the campus, and down the street, and then she cried. She never let them see it. And, by the end of the first month, she had beaten the system. She was in. Not exactly popular, but respected.
She’s stronger than I am. I would have fought, and when that didn’t work, I would have skipped school. I would have become a statistic.
I wish this post had a point. Or, I wish I could just delete it. But deleting it won’t make it go away. I was going to write about how I escaped into science fiction as a kid. I was going to write about how learning to code was me coming full circle.
I don’t know.