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|"Early Morning Sunshine", 10x10" mixed media on wood cradle panel.|
My memories of my early school years are forever tied to one kid I befriended right at the beginning. She was a tiny, little girl, while I was.... not. I didn't fit in... I had red hair and freckles, my mom made my clothes, and I was big. One of the tallest kids in my class until middle school, I towered in the back row of every class photo from grades 1 to 5, while my tiny friend was always in the front row, dead centre.
Kids can be cruel. They don't seem to have much of a filter, and will point out and make fun of anything that makes someone stand out. I had the misfortune of having a small accident the day before school started... I was out with my mom and our new dog (not a puppy, an adopted, older dog), and she had me hold the leash while she dug something out of her purse. The dog took off, and not wanting to let her get away, i held on to that leash, getting dragged a couple blocks on the concrete as a result. My face looked a little worse for wear. My earliest memory of school is being approached by a boy in my class and being told "I don't like you, you're ugly". Yikes.
So, I took it upon myself to make sure my little buddy didn't get bullied. Or as much as I could anyway. I got bullied a bit myself, but because of my size it was usually older kids in the neighbourhood (my older siblings played their part, of course) and not the kids in my class. I was a pretty weird kid. I suppose it was unavoidable.
The two of us were always in the same class. I don't really know how kids got assigned their classes in the 70/80s, but I suspect the school administrators realized I had taken on this role and it was one way to make sure this kid didn't get hurt. Her house was in the same direction as mine so we walked together every day, and sometimes I had lunch at her place because she was much closer. It worked out well for everyone, and to this day, we are still friends.
In primary school we had recess twice a day... the bell would ring and the entire school would pour into the school yard and run around like maniacs for 15 minutes. The two of us would usually sit along the fence or walk around picking "flowers" (weeds) or play some silly game with a couple of the other kids. Queen Ann's Lace (Wild Carrot) was the flower of choice, and finding a patch made for a great day. When I see them now I still think of my friend "Hedgeheight" (original nickname, right? She was, quite literally, the height of the hedge around her yard when I christened her with that one. I don't think she's gotten much taller). It reminds me of a sunny spring day in the school yard, talking about our favourite things and picking flowers.
We don't talk all that often these days, but we check in on each other from time to time, and she will sometimes make the long trek from the other side of the city to come to an opening. It's nice to have someone around who has known me for the majority of my life, and shared many of the same experiences. Thank goodness for email and the internet, because it's a lot easier to keep track of each other now than it was in the 80s.