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When You Were Young
When you were young, sitting on the bus made you feel ten feet tall, peering down at the other cars dwarfed by the yellow goliath that was your transport to the place you would soon spend more time at than home.
Such exhilaration, escaping the tiny world of home where you have been for six straight years of your life save for brief reprieves of shopping or playground adventures at the nearby park, yet always watched by moms careful eye.
But now…now you are farther than you have ever been, surrounded by hundreds of people that seem like giants. They seem to hold all the wisdom and experience the world has to offer and you huddle with the few friends you’ve managed to make (in that delightful innocent way that was all you knew) during the short ride that seems like years as you glance nervously but excitedly up and down the aisles.
The “cool” kids (the upper classmen, whatever that meant) always sit in the back, a privilege it seems you are not old enough to come by yet. Yet sometimes you managed to sneak back, hidden from the watchful driver by seats a bit too tall for you. There, you entered a new world, if only for the brief ride to school.
Not always listening to conversation that held words and jokes beyond your understanding, you instead watched their movements, fascinated by the way they slouched, their clothes so very different from your own simple overalls. Filing away their gestures to later pantomime with your friends, you drink in the world of being “grown up.”
They taught you on a cold winter day that if you tilt your head back and blow out a stream of warm breath, you could pretend that you’re smoking.
School, you soon found, was not so bad as older siblings and peers complained it was. The classroom, with its brightly colored posters and rows of sinks and paints and tables and chairs, was everything you could ever dream for. A haven of laughter where new discoveries were made everyday. (If you fold a piece of green paper a certain way, you can make a frog that actually hops!)
You were finally taught that the mysterious symbols in which your parents communicated were called “letters” and “words” and really, they were just your voice put on thin paper that easily ripped (especially if you erased too hard). Cleaning the chalkboard wasn’t a chore; pounding felt lined erasers created fluffy clouds like the ones you saw in the sky that you wished you could feel.
Cafeteria food was okay; obviously from a can, obviously not Mom’s cooking. But it was okay and the real novelty lay in being surrounded by more people than you ever have in your life. You quickly made friends: back then it didn’t matter what clothes you wore or music you listened to. You were all together in the same grade, sharing the same adventures and that’s all that mattered. Besides, its safe to say your fashion style was comfort all the way (and whether or not your denims could withstand the power of mud and grass).
Recess: from the first day you learned it was a golden word, one that you and everyone else waited all day for, suffered through arithmetic (so many numbers!) for, and looked to the clock trying to decipher the many lines for. From the moment you laid eyes on the blue and green monkey bars, endless pit of sand, row upon row of shining new swings and bright yellow slides, you knew you’d found heaven.
This was your domain, upon which you built amazing (to you at least) sandcastles, complete with enormous motes that were more like the Grand Canyon surrounding the blobs of sand with sticks and leaves poking through the top to serve as flags. You conquered the bars, being the first to climb all the way to the top and let your legs dangle down over your cheering classmates.
You wore the first battle scar on your knee from falling off and scraping a rock hidden beneath the sand. You wanted to wear that Scooby-Doo BandAid til the day you died…or at least until all the sticky stuff came off.
You picked handfuls of the flowers that grew on the edge of the playground to take home to your parents but most were dropped and trampled on the bus. But they still put the surviving few in a little glass of water on the counter and there they stayed til the petals dropped, brown and brittle.
It wouldn’t be until a few years later that you learned those pretty yellow flowers were actually weeds.