Growing up in the seventies in Johnson City, TN is like growing up in every small to mid size town in America. Most of the people you meet are white, most of the store owners are “hey there” friends of your parents, most of the people
pretty much look and act the same and most of the grandparents live pretty close by.
My first memory is the sound of my mother’s voice explaining what Kindergarten is and why I have to go.
My Mommy Gah explains, “you’re going to Southside School because your brother goes to Southside School.”
She explains, “the teachers and kids are a lot like Mother Goose (my pre-school) but with no candy and no long naps.”
She continues, “you have to remember to go to the bathroom because no one will be there to remind you and you must always remember to say please and thank you, and to be nice, and to wipe front to back and to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”
She explains that I ride the same big yellow bus with my brother and she’s just around the corner at the VA working if I need something. She tells me the VA is where my brother plays baseball, so it’s close enough in case I need her.
My Mommy Gah tells me if I get confused to just find my big brother and him all my questions, he’ll explain everything to me.
My excitement is beyond measure, I get to see and talk to my big brother all the time again. My excitement is too much for me to handle. I know he’ll be excited too cause he hasn’t seen or listened to me much since he left for “The Southside”.
You see, my brother is ten months older than me, so his exit from my house left me without an audience.
And unfortunately; my always laughing, my always beer drinking, my always storytelling, my always smoking, my always cussing, my always complaining about hot flashes fifty something Grandmother, Nonnie, loved to talk as much as I did.
Between the two of us, we couldn’t get a word in edge wise.
So kindergarten day finally arrives, my Mommy Gah and I walk hand in hand into my new gigantic white room. I see more new faces and more new eyes than I’ve ever seen in one big room, but quickly I realize I don’t know a single face (names haven’t come to my memory yet) in my new white room.
My fear washes over me,
Who are all these faces?
Why am I here?
Where is my Mommy Gah going?
Where is my brother?
Where is my dog?
Where is my dad?
Where is my Nonnie?
Where is my MaMaw?
Where is my Aunt Patti?
Where is my Aunt Lizbeth?
Where is my Aunt Lane?
Where did all my faces go?
And just as I turn to chase after my Mommy Gah, I see a face I remember, Cheryl, my oldest compadre.
“Wait, I know that face!” I say out loud in Cheryl’s direction.
I point to her and bounce to her like tigger on a pogo stick. I immediately begin talking her head off, I know she is excited to see me too (she has the same look of “excitement” my brother has when Nonnie and I meet him as he gets off the big yellow bus). I slept next to Cheryl at Mother Goose Pre-School and I stole her caramel corn during nap time but she never seem to minded.
I am beyond thrilled!