We needed one another, my younger sister and I, during the first days as strangers in a new school. It was the first day of March, but more importantly, it was the first day of school for us in the midst of a school year.
March 1st has been the prime moving day for Iowa farm families for years because most farm leases run from March to March. Our dad bought a farm the year I was 7 and we couldn't move in until the family ahead of us moved out. They waited until the last possible day.
And now, here we were, leaving our classes of about 30 students to enter classes of 6 or 7. The good part about it was that my sister and I would be in the same classroom and could stick together. The scariest part was going out for recess. None of our new classmates at that early age had any social skills. We were looked at and left standing as all the girls from the first four grades hurried across the street to what appeared to be their assigned playground. The boys ran behind the school building to their own playground.
The first game was tag. My sister and I followed the girls across the street to stand together beneath a huge tree. We watched the others gather to talk but were too shy to join them without an invitation. It wasn't long before we knew what they had talked about. We were told we were the chasers. We were IT. That was a beginning. At least someone said something to us. But it was hard to figure out the rules of their game. No matter who we tagged, there was a reason both of us were still IT when recess was over.
The next recess was during the noon hour and our group was allowed to play on the glider, merry-go-round and teeter-totter. The girls didn't seem as remote as they had earlier. Maybe their game of tag was a test and we had passed - we had not tattled or cried. The girl whose seat was behing mine in the classroom asked me some questions. Soon we were all standing in a bunch, the playground equipment unused, chatting away. The ice was broken and from then on our days at the new school were, for the most part, a wonderful adventure.
We lived close enough to town to go home for lunch at noon but sometimes we begged to take a sack lunch. That gave us more time to play with our new friends. As packed lunches go, ours were rather boring. We usually had either cheese or bologna sandwiches, a cookie and an apple or celery & carrot sticks. One of the girls in my class had a little waxed paper wrapped pile of potato chips to eat with her sandwich. Sometimes she had an orange or a banana, and it seemed she always had cake. Many times I watched with envy in my heart as she ate her chocolate cake topped with a glossy chocolate frosting over a marshmallow filling. The few times we had cake it was cut long and narrow with plain old powdered sugar frosting. Hers was cut in big squares making it look extra special through my little-girl-eyes.
This new school had no high school classes. There were 3 girls in my grade school class and after graduating from 8th grade each of us went to one of the 3 high schools in our area. I had neither my younger sister nor my 2 best friends with me, but my older siblings were already students at the high school. I was known for a while as Lois, Joan and Earl's little sister. They had paved the way for me so I didn't feel quite as new as I may have otherwise.
My first memory of the start of that school year was the class meeting. It seemed every class had to have officers and a meeting once a month. I no longer remember what we discussed at our meetings but I remember the election of officers. My new classmates gave me an initiation of sorts by electing me secretary. Taking notes when I had no idea who was talking or how to spell their names was a challenge. A boy everyone called Buck sat ahead of me and helped all he could. The new names were not only strange to me, but were very difficult to spell - to start with, try Nitzschke and Sudtelgte.
I suppose my days of being the new girl in any situation are over. Now that I am better prepared for handling those awkward hours, I have none of them.