I was always kind of an unusual child. A bit more worrisome, a bit more sensitive, never quite like everyone else. I spent a lot of time alone amusing myself by playing library with my dolls and stuffed animals. You know, as one does.
I was scared of the life-size doll who lived in the back of my closet, monsters under my bed, and the dark.
I may have been a scardy cat, but I never lied. except the time I peed in a box in my closet when I was four, because, well, why not? After discovering the evidence my mom told me, quite sternly that we had been going to do something special that afternoon, but because of what I had done we weren’t She died several years ago having never told me what that special something was. The not knowing still haunts me.
With a history of not lying, and pretty much being a good girl to the nth degree, I set off for my first day of first grade. My outfit had been carefully planned — a smocked, plaid dress, new Mary Janes, ankle socks, and a brand new super poofy petticoat that crinkled when I walked. I was a vision of five-year-old splendor.
What I now realize is I was so focused on how adorable my outfit was I failed to realize that once we got to school, me in my super cute outfit, that my Mom would be leaving. Leaving as in, I’d be alone with complete strangers. What was she thinking?!
I’d gone to a private kindergarten, but that was kid’s play compared to a real school. This was the big time — more kids! Recess! Desks! All day long! Well, I would be walking home for lunch with my brother, but I was essentially being thrown out into the world for up to three hours at a time. I panicked. My brother was long gone into the super-secret world known as fifth grade. I was abandoned, alone — except for my teacher and 20 other kids. But for all intents and purposes, I was totally alone.
Before class the teacher had us go out on the playground to get some fresh air and get acquainted. Alright, this could be good. A little hopscotch, a little jump rope. I could totally do this. I killed at jump rope.
But the thing was, no one came over to me to ask me to play. I stood there alone, too shy (or as I later discovered many self-help books later) introverted to approach anyone, and no one was seeking me out.
So, in a moment of what I now realize is pretty genius thinking, I did the only thing my five-almost six-year-old brain could think of. I grabbed my eye and started to cry. A teacher came running over, understandably concerned and asked me what was wrong.
“I have a piece of glass in my eye!” I wailed. Where this idea came from I have no idea, but looking back I think, well played little Candy.
Soon I was surrounded by all sorts of teachers, and the principal. What I could not comprehend at the time was that my father was their boss. A newly minted wunderkind superintendent brought in to fix an ailing school system. And here they were — the first day of school and they had broken his only daughter. My mother was immediately summoned.
I’m sure on sight my mother knew the truth, but back in her arms, everything felt okay once again. We walked home, me still insisting my eye hurt. She played along, rinsing it with some water, putting a warm compress — her answer for everything — on it. I had some graham crackers and thought, okay, day one was done. But no, after lunch she took me back.
I ended up falling in love with my teacher, Miss Kennedy, the prettiest teacher ever. I was not the only one to fall for her, however, one month into the school year she got married and left. My father was never able to secure another full-time teacher for our class and we ended up with 22 substitutes over the school year. You can rightfully assume I didn’t handle all those changes very well, but I never pretended to have glass in my eye again. From that day on I took a far more dignified approach — crying in a stall in the girl’s bathroom. School did eventually get better, but I do have to confess that the occasional cry in a stall totally got me through.