My first vivid memory of my childhood was of Kindergarten. I had been home with my mother since birth and was devastated when she left me at the doorway expecting me to stay in a room full of strange kids without her. I cried and cried, but she never returned. I didn’t know how difficult that moment was for her until I had the same experience as a mother. My teacher was beautiful like the Barbie dolls my father would never let me buy. Although she was part Native American, Miss Sullivan had skin like cream of wheat, with dark hair down her back and as sweet as pie. Eventually my mother Ethel volunteered as Ms. Sullivan’s aide. I don’t know if it was because I continued to have difficulty separating or if she was just too afraid to leave her little girl in school. I’m not really sure is the truth. Mom was home with us all until school age which is why before the age of five, I was able to read independently. My mom, a high school drop out, had taught me how to read. I remember being afraid yet excited at the same time. I sat on top of the black licorice colored grand piano because I was still too little to sit in the big chairs in the classroom, and read a story to my class sitting below me on the floor. Their faces were frozen and they looked in amazement. This shy girl, who sat next to them during playtime, eating cookies and chocolate milk, was now in the role of teacher, reading to them all during story time. The principal even came in to see what his ears could not believe.
That is where the expectations began. I was put on display, positioned to be the star; the one to crawl out of the pit. The one child who would make my daddy proud that any of us were born. The savior. Such a heavy burden for a little five year old girl, and at that moment I had no knowledge of any of these expectations, nor how they would shape my life.
I am the only girl in a family of four. Three brothers – two are older and one younger and but for the grace of God we are all still breathing, able to tell our own individual stories, with children and homes and our good health. I thought being the only girl in the house was the biggest curse when I was younger. I was trapped in a houseful of silly, selfish boys who found pleasure in stringing my Barbie dolls from the basement water pipes, and extracting the batteries from my talking dolls so they could pretend she was dead. I was in Hell. That’s what I felt I was living in at the moment. And I still had to get though grade school.