…“Grandmomma said I have to go to kindergarten,” I said. I directed this comment toward my brother, who I assumed was still sitting at the other end of the sofa. “Kindergarten is easy,” Billy said.
Grandmomma and Granddaddy want me to go to the School for the Blind in St. Augustine, but Momma wants me to go to school with sighted kids.” “You have to color pictures in kindergarten,” Billy said. “That might be hard for you.” “I can see red,” I said. “But there are a lot of other colors,” Billy said. “Like there’s green and yellow and orange and blue and purple and brown and black and white.” “Also, you have to start raising your hand in kindergarten,” Billy said. “I’ll show you later how to hold your hand up. You have to raise your hand a certain way and you can’t wave it around.”
Momma, Billy and I were all living in Grandmomma’s house. Momma stayed in her room, the middle bedroom, most of the time. When I went to visit her, I could tell the room was very dark even in the daytime. It smelled like cigarettes.
Grandmomma took me for my first day of kindergarten. I wore a new dress. Grandmomma said it was pink and made of cotton. Clara starched and ironed it for me, and, when I put it on, she buttoned it up the back. She said I looked pretty and I should feel the smocking which felt like a design in the top front of the dress.
When Grandmomma dropped me off, Mrs. Brooks, the kindergarten teacher, took me by the hand and walked me to a table. I bumped into the corner of the table but it didn’t hurt my leg very much. One of the great frustrations of blindness is walking into things. Not only did we sometimes hurt ourselves but it seems like other people think we are clumsy.
I heard the chair scrape on the floor as Mrs. Brooks pulled it out for me. Somehow I got myself seated. The kids sitting on each side of me asked, “What’s wrong with your eyes?” “I got lye in them,” I said. “What’s lye?” they asked. “Something you pour in the sink when it is stopped up,” I managed to say. I wanted to leave. The kid on my right said, “Oh, I am glad I don’t look like you.” The kid on the left said “Oooh,”
I heard someone clapping the way Grandmomma clapped when she wanted Billy and me to pay attention. Mrs. Brooks said, “We will now color a picture.” Someone put a piece of paper in my hands. I heard the rustle of papers being passed out to what I figured was the rest of the class. “Here are your crayons,” Mrs. Brooks said and put a box of crayons into my hands. I opened the box and smelled the crayons. I loved their smell. I held the box close to my eye and looked for a red one.
“Children,” Mrs. Brooks asked, “what outline do you see on your piece of paper?” The piece of paper looked and felt blank to me. “A house,” everyone else shouted. “Go ahead and color,” Mrs. Brooks said. I put my face down on the paper but I couldn’t see an outline at all. I wondered what a house looked like.
I decided to color up and down on the paper with the red crayon. I had heard of red brick houses. “You’re not staying in the lines,” the kid next to me said. “You must be blind.”
1 thought on “Starting School: Excerpts from Chapter 9”
How cruel children can be. The first day of school is terrifying for any child. Being a person with a disability myself, I have learned that situations where people show ignorance or cruelty is an opportunity to build self-worth, compassion, and patience. I am eagerly waiting to discover how Ms. Comin faces the challenges that define the amazing person I am honored to know today.