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12 Pictures of Me
1. I am climbing up a steep wooden ladder that leads to the garage apartment in my backyard. At the top, there is a girl. She is very tall- much older than me. We sit on the floor of the apartment eating cheerios. I am one year old.
2. It is an overcast day. The house is run down. Small, weedy trees grow next to the street, obscuring it from view. The vivid red steps that lead to the porch are crumbling, making walking on them a slight peril. Do we live here now? I ask my parents. Not yet, replies Dad. We're just looking for now. I am two years old.
3. A group of small children is running through a brightly painting home, screaming and laughing at the same time. I am one of them. We dash outside, where the neighbor's two-year-old potbelly pig is, and try to saddle and ride him. He disagrees with this and eventually bucks us off. I am three years old.
4. Today in preschool, we are tracing life-sized outlines of our bodies to paint. After tracing mine, I begin to paint it in a style reminiscent of a splatter painting. My classmates tease me because my painting doesn't have long hair, so "it can't be a girl." I nod, but honestly, I can't tell the difference between mine and theirs. I am four years old.
5. It is my day of school. All of the kindergarteners are waiting on the blacktop, looking scared and uncomfortable in their itchy new uniforms. I stand next to a girl with the longest, blackest hair I have ever seen. Her hair must pass her knees. Hi, she says. Hello. Let's be friends. Okay. We walk into school together, slightly less nervous. I am five years old.
6. First grade. This year, we have reading partners. Mine is the girl with braids. Her name is Celeste. An assortment of small plastic trinkets is spread out on the floor, and our assignment is to find the pieces that have names starting with the letter "q." We easily find "quilt" and soon after, "quail." But the last object seems to evade us. After searching for almost 15 minutes, which seems like hours to a first grader, we consult our teacher. She shows us a feather. How can that start with "q"? we ask. "Q" is for "quill," she says. That's an odd words, I think. I am six years old.
7. It is night. The temperature, probably in the 40's. Early Decembers. My class is standing next to the playground, excitedly waiting for something. What is it? We don't know. Our teacher, along with our parents, has been planning a surprise for us for the past few weeks. It will happen tonight. My friend Roni and I are playing 20 questions with her father, trying to figure out what it is. Is it cold? we ask. Yes. Give us a hint. It quacks. A bus pulls up. Confused about the hints and unsure of what comes next, I walk towards it. I am seven years old.
8. My third grade class is reading The Hobbit in English. It is definitely the thickest book I've ever had to read for school. We are only on page three, and already I'm sure I won't like it. The plot is boring and the style of writing sounds like it's from the 17th century. I miserably plod through it for a few weeks, but then, somewhere between Bilbo's house party and meeting Gollum, something clicks. I start to like it. I don't know if it's because Mrs. Murphy reads in funny voices or because she lets us plan a play of the book, but The Hobbit suddenly becomes my favorite book. I am eight years old.
9. Fourth grade. This year, we get lockers. We have to share them and they take forever to unlock, but the novelty of them makes it fun anyway. I am paired with the shortest girl in my class. Unfortunately, we have a top lockers. We decide to guard the treasures inside our locker with a vintage lock my dad has generously donated to us, only to realize that, despite the fact that it weighs nearly five pounds, it can be coaxed open simply by shaking it. Because of this, we spend the year in fear that someone will find out and steal our valuables. No one ever does. I am nine years old.
10. My school is building a new playground. Everyone is excited. The only problem is that the fifth graders won't be allowed to play on it. The teachers are afraid that we'll crush the first graders, which makes sense, except we don't have recess at the same time as any other classes. We decide to do something about this. We make a petition, convince people to sign it. We arrange a meeting with the principal. We think we're so cool. I am 10 years old.
11. This year, I'm in pre-algebra- two years ahead of most of my classmates. Instead of following the other 6th graders to wherever they're going for 2nd period, I have to plod all alone into the pre-algebra room. My class is made up entirely of 7th graders. I hate it. The 7th graders are the most notorious students in my school. They taunt me. They stare. They lie about their names to confuse me. The only friendly person in the class is an exchange student rom Korea. She doesn't speak English. At least she doesn't tease me. I am 11 years old.
12. My first day of public school. Ever. Not only have I never attended a public school, I have only been inside of two. My old school had 200 kids. I knew every single one of them. My new school has 1300. I know zero of them. I take a deep breath and join the mob of middle schoolers pushing their way through the front door. I am 12 years old.