I could hear the pain in my father’s quiet “oh” as I truthfully explained to him that I did not have any happy memories of growing up on the farm. I do have one or two fuzzy memories that are happy, but they all involve being away from the farm: a sleep over at a cousin’s; going for a haircut; the one time I rode my bike to a friend’s house.
These fuzzy memories usually involve a much sharper memory: going to my cousin’s, since my mother is in the nuthouse; being screamed at by mother for ‘saying things’ to the hairdresser…like I hoped to go to university one day, and get out of town; being forbidden from ever riding my bike further than the library in town. Nice clear images to cherish forever.
I can tell you the mean thing that every teacher I had did ever did or said to me. Mrs. Hooftman’s split grade 2/3 class – on movie day, getting grabbed by my ear, dragged out into the hall and smacked into the wall for the first movie; getting put in the corner for the 2nd movie, and finally being allowed to take my seat for a short health film. My crime against humanity was flicking a spitball off my desk that someone else had just fired at me, and Paula M. freaking right out. The fact that there were already other spitballs clinging to me didn’t serve as a defense but further proof of my transgressions to a teacher who was on health leave, when she shook another child so violently, and threw in him into a desk that he ended up with a concussion.
There were even a few teachers not even my teachers who got into it – Mr. Reid the Special Ed teacher, slamming me into the wall at recess and threatening to ‘whup me’ if he ever heard me say ‘that word’ again. Then I had to apologize to his student. The word was ‘retard’; it wasn’t me, but Craig K. who said it; and I still didn’t know what it meant for another week. Mr. Fisher, holding me up by the throat for not having gone to his classroom to get assigned lines after recess, for having thrown snow – not a snowball, just loose fluffy snow. I could see other teachers watching – Mr Stewart, Mr Farnell and Miss McKinnon, but not until Mr. Cober the vice-principal came by did I get put down. And I got double the lines.
That was a grade school. I couldn’t wait until I got to high school.
Grade school was purgatory compared to high school. I did make one life-long friend there, my opposite. We decided she was the pessimistic optimist (life sucks now, ergo can only get better), whilst I was the optimistic pessimistic (you think now is better, it’s going to get worse, ergo enjoy it now).
It was then that I formulated first my dream: move away from this horrible place, go to the city, find people like you, and live happily ever after.