I sat in the front desk, the row of desks extending behind me. I sat towards the right hand side of the room, off center, away from the door. Mrs. Turner’s desk was at the back of the room.
I have come into this room, hoping they don’t notice me. Yesterday, a lady came into the classroom, stooped down to me privately as I sat at my desk, and suggested I come with her into the second grade classroom.
I followed her into a noisy room where all the kids were talking at once to each other. They didn’t sit in rows. They sat at tables across from each other. They threw things at each other and the teacher yelled at them.
So this morning I’ve come back to my desk in Mrs. Turner’s classroom, the first grade, and I hope they don’t come and talk to me again.
Mrs. Turner has brown hair pinned up in a bun. She is kind and gentle. She likes me. I like her. She invited me to sit in a chair facing the kids and read them the Peter Pan story. I like to hold up the book to show them the pictures the way teachers always do. Mrs. Turner interrupted me one time from her desk at the back of the room to explain how to pronounce the word “island,” which was coming up a lot in the Peter Pan story. I was pronouncing it the way it is written.
We pull our chairs into a circle, some of us, on the side of the classroom to read out loud. The book we are reading from – we each have a hardback copy, a dark grey/turquoise cover with black letters – has a long word in its title that I cannot decipher. Usually I am the one who knows all the words. I am embarrassed that I don’t know this one. I don’t ask anyone what it is.
I got home one day after school with Mrs. Turner because my mother cannot come get me. The creek at the bottom of our driveway is flooded and no one can get through. So Mrs. Turner takes me home with her.
She lives in a small house. She has a husband. The house is quiet. She puts me to bed in a tall, high bed, a double bed. I like this bed. It feels old-fashioned, so high up off the ground.
At playtime at school we play in the playground. We play jump rope. Two girls twirl the rope, one at each end, and we take turns standing by the edge of the turning rope, our body moving with its rhythm until we know the moment we can jump in without tripping or stopping the regular turn of the long rope. “Paul John George Ringo!” we chant as each girl jumps inside the circle of the turning rope. Paul John George Ringo,” and when finally each girl misses her beat, stumbles and gets in the way of the turning rope, whatever name was last called – be it Paul or John or George or Ringo – we know that’s the one she is secretly in love with, and everybody laughs.
The Beatles are four boys with black hair. I do not know which is which.