When I was five, my mum, brother and I went to New Zealand. We had friends who had moved there, who we were going to stay with for a few months. There are so many stories I could tell you of our time there, but the part I want to tell you about, was when I went to school.
My brother and I were enrolled in a school in Parmistan north, for; I think a month of our stay.
I was so excited to be going to a new school… a “regular” school, is what I called it (As back home I was at Steiner school – which, for those of you who don’t know.. is a whole different kind of education, look it up, Waldorf Steiner! – plus, at 5, I still hadn’t gone up to the big school, but here, I was in the big school with the big kids!)
Anyway, I was so excited, I felt like it was the most exciting thing ever to happen to me, I was looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things.. And getting homework! (Keep in mind I was 5!)
That morning, I woke up early, with butterflies in my stomach, I jumped out of bed and put on my beautiful, Lime green (yes, I did say Lime green.. just remember it was in the early 90’s) dress that Mum and I had selected days before, and ran into the kitchen. I sat at the table, eating my cereal; talking non-stop about the things I thought I would learn that day.
On the drive to school, suddenly the excitement began to turn into fear, what if none of the girls liked me? What if they all thought I was weird because I had an accent? (Little did I know at this point, that being the girl with the accent was going to become such a huge part of my life later on!) What if they thought I was dumb? I tried so hard to push these fears away, but they just grew and grew, as we got closer.
Pulling up to the school, my brother jumped out the car and ran into school with the boys he already knew from his class.
“I don’t want to go anymore mummy” I said, looking out at the big scary building.
“Come on, I’ll take you to your class, you’ll be fine once you’re in there and meet some of the other girls”
I took my mums hand, as she lead me into the building that looked like a giant monster in front of me, we went and registered, and found out what class I would be in, and then my mum had to leave.
I was taken by the head mistress, as we walked down the long, seemingly never-ending but at the same time, nowhere near long enough, hallway to the classroom at the end. When we opened the door and I stepped inside, the entire class stared. I was introduced to my teacher, who then introduced me to the entire class. I couldn’t speak, I could barely even breathe, I just wanted to hide at the back of the room. Then, as my eyes quickly, shyly scanned the room – I saw her. Emma was her name. Her blonde ringlets hanging down to her shoulders, big blue eyes glistening up at me. She smiled. I knew, right then, this was the girl I had to be friends with. Obviously the most popular girl in the class, and definitely the most beautiful.
I was shown to a seat, just behind her. I tried to smile at her as I walked past, but it may have looked more like I had a twitch.
To be honest the next, middle part of my first day is quite a blur, I don’t really know what class we had, if I spoke to anyone,.. All I know is I had been waiting for a moment where I could speak to Emma, a perfect opportunity where I could become her new best friend, and I was about to be given that chance.. Or so I thought.
It was the class after lunch, we were all told to line up in the hallway, and that we were going to have a treat. We were going to get to watch a movie on Turtles! There was so much excitement bubbling around, people pushing in line to get to the front so they could get the best seat, chatter about who will sit next to who.
All I did was watch Emma, making sure I didn’t miss a single move, I was going to make sure, whatever happened that I ended up next to that girl.
The teacher finally got us all standing neatly in line, and we were about head into the movie room, when she asked if there was anyone who was not allowed to watch TV. I wasn’t really listening to what she said; I just saw Emma’s hand shoot up in the air, so mine followed.
“Ok, whoever is not allowed to watch the movie, will be the game room”
A huge smile spread across my face, I was going to get to spend time with JUST Emma, – not just sit next to her in a movie – but play games, just me and her! There’s no way at the end of this we wont be best friends!
Then I heard some giggling, and I looked around and saw that my hand was the only one up. The teacher began to walk over to me; she crouched down, so she was at my height.
“Ok, you’re the only one I think, are you sure you’re not allowed?”
At this point, I could have got out of it; I realized that Emma had only put her hand up as a joke. But if I then said, “Oh, no I am allowed to, I was just kidding” what would everyone think of me? They’d think I was a liar. I was a liar, I was lying that I couldn’t watch it, but if I say I was lying, they’d know I was a liar, and that would be even worse!!
My head began to nod, I looked down at the floor, my stomach turned, and my eyes began to burn. I swallowed back all the tears, and started to follow my teacher as she led me away from everyone else. We walked through the TV room, through a long, gloomy corridor, into the back room.
Inside, was a chair, in the centre, and a box full of toys on one side. It was like a prison, but for a five-year old. I looked around, and then looked back up at my teacher, with longing eyes. “Please don’t leave me in here” I wanted to say, but couldn’t speak, for fear that all the tears I had swallowed would all come tumbling out at once.
“Someone will come and get you when we’re done Ok? There are toys in the box, this door will lock as I leave, so if you need anything, just bang on it and someone we’ll hear Ok?”
I nodded, and looked down at the floor.
I watched her feet as she walked out the room, then felt a smash against my heart as the door shut tight.
I looked around my prison.
“This is what I get for wanting to be friends with the popular girl,” I thought.
I looked up at the door; it was a big, strong wooden door, with a small window high up. I wasn’t tall enough to see out of it, but I could see the light from the corridor.
The tears began to spill down my face, at this point I didn’t even begin to try to stop them, the current was too strong.
I sat down on the floor, and watched the wet spot begin to grow as my tears pool-ed on the carpet.
Once the tears ran out, and my throat was sore from holding in the big sobs, I wiped my eyes, and decided I might as well make good use of the time. The best use of it I could think, was to use it to imagine what would have happened if I had been in the other room. So, I curled up in the corner, and began to live my imaginary life.
I was sitting in that dark room, the movie was playing, Emma was beside me. We laughed at the same things, we covered our mouth in shock at the same moments, we grabbed for each-others hands at the scary part.
As the movie was coming to an end, Emma leaned over to me and whispered in my ear “Will you be my best friend?”
I turned to her, and smiled, I was so happy, it finally happened. I was going to best friend with the post popular, most beautiful girl at my new school. I nodded and she grinned back at me.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I know my mind was very vivid as a child, and I could sit for a very long time, living my imaginary life.
But when the light in the hallway was switched off and all I could see was blackness out the little square window at the top of the door,.. I knew something was wrong. I had been forgotten.
I stood up, my body being overtaken by fear. I started to shake. Tears started to build up again like a huge wave being formed out in the middle of the ocean, knowing it will soon crash on the shore. I dragged the chair over to the door and stood on it. The only thing I could see, was at the very end of the long, black hallway, was a little light. The light at the end of the tunnel.
“That must mean someone is still in the school. I wont be here forever” A tiny glimpse of hope rose in me.
I jumped down from the chair, and began pacing the room.
I walked back and forth, back and forth. I started walking in patterns, imagining my feet were leaving a trail of glitter behind me. Until the room was totally full of sparkles. And then I would mix them all up and blow them around, so that they were floating all around me in the air.
Finally, after all I could see was the thick ocean of glitter filling up the entire room, and in front of my eyes was a foggy layer of tear glasses, the light flicked back on through the door. And then, the door opened…….
I stood still, scared to move, just in case it wasn’t my teacher, but a big scary monster.
It wasn’t, it was my slightly frazzled teacher, who rushed in and ran over to me.
“I’m so sorry, come on, you’re mum’s waiting”
My mum? Did they call my mum? Did they find out I lied and called her in to kick me out of school? I didn’t’ say anything, I just followed her back to the classroom, with my head hanging low.
As we entered the main hallway, I realized my why mum would be there.. It wasn’t because she was called in. It was the end of the day.
I had been forgotten. I had been totally forgotten, for the entire afternoon.
When I saw my mum, I ran into her arms. She hugged me, said goodbye to the teacher, took my hand and we walked out to the car, in silence.
When she buckled me in, and went around to the driver’s seat, mum looked at me, and said,
“Why did you say you weren’t allowed to watch TV?”
I looked at my mum, thinking of all the reasons I could say, the truth, or I had a headache, or I was scared, there were so many options.
I looked back up at the school, watching as other girls and boys ran out to meet their parents, laughing, shouting goodbye to all their friends. Smiles on every one of their faces.
“Because we don’t have a TV at home”
My mum nodded, it was true, and that was a good enough answer. She didn’t need to know it was all to become friends with the five-year-old prom queen.
And that, right there – was my first day at a New Zealand “regular” school
And, my very last.