Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Guest post 4: They never told me by Shopgirl

Today’s guest is Shopgirl who is an incredibly talented writer. Her blog is called  A blessing a day and those of you who haven’t been there yet should pop by as soon as you read this:

They never told me going to school meant answering questions.

My first day at school.  I sat in the front row with my back straight, knees together, eyes forward, hands behind my back.  I can't remember much about my first teacher except he made us sit like those baby trees tied to a stick.  So I thought about the summer days of jumping into the fish pond with Tyler and Po, catching dragon flies and stealing walnuts from the tree hanging over our yard.  I listened to birds that chirped chirped outside calling me to go climbing and in case another abandoned nest awaited me in the crisscrossing branches. 

The teacher must have asked a question so everyone's hands flew up.  I caught the sight from the corners of my eyes and quick as a flash I pulled my right arm out and raised it up high. 

Of course I didn't know the answer - I hadn't even heard the question.  Only that dad had told me to raise my hands and stay engaged.

They never told me going to school meant doing homework.

As the bell rang, my heart leaped out of my throat and my steps carried me like the wings of those birds that flew away as I ran across the school yard. My schoolbag flapped against my back and the bees chased me part way through those yellow and white flowering bushes. Grandmas walking home from getting vegetables at the street vendors shouted at me to slow down.  I passed the shop that sold fried bread and soy milk in the morning, and smelled the sticky sweetness that wafted through the windows.  I passed the popcorn guy who sat at the curb with his hand cranked stove that looked like an ink well inside and out.  It exploded when a batch was ready, popping out sweet, fluffy and white corns wrapped in newspaper cones for fifty cents.  When I got home,  I gather with "my team" and we play until all our moms grew horse shouting out our names for dinner. 

The next day, the teacher asked us for our homework and he looked at me until I bent my head to hide my shame.  I didn't know what he meant and I didn't know how to ask.  No one ever told me to ask questions or how. 

They never told me going to school meant carrying notes home.

For the first year of school I gave back no homework.  The teacher shook his head and wagged his fingers.  The class peered down at me calling me the "idiot" or worse, "baby".  I wanted to kick them but dad told me to get along with others so I hold myself back but I had to grind my teeth to get through the day. It  felt like jail to be sitting still from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon and I can't possibly imagine any more "work" at "home".  Mom fussed over dinner and dad fussed over my jackets and socks, everyone said I was too young to go to school yet I liked it so much better than the alternatives and no one made me eat anything like tomatoes or cabbages. So they let me sit there everyday staring into the space in front of the blackboard dreaming of swimming, running, jumping or escaping. 

But the teacher eventually got tired of explaining homework to me and got nothing back.  In my second year they finally sent a note home for my parents to sign.  Mom had been teaching me to write my name real good, and she showed me how she write hers.  I copied it so many times I could write it just like her, with the curves and messiness that only adults allow themselves.  I practiced it again on the note the teacher sent me, as I saw a blank line at the end, next to the word "name".   I made it so good it looked like mom had written it. 

When they find out I signed the note they got really mad at me and called me a liar.  I had never been called that and it felt rotten like those tomatoes I left sitting on the window sill all summer.  I didn't know what the note said, but I didn't want to find out anymore.  I just wanted to throw everything from my schoolbag into the murky lotus pond under of the White Tower Bridge and ran away.  

They never told me going to school meant admitting you made a mistake even when you didn't mean to.


  1. Good guest post Shopgirl! I was picturing you in your classroom. I was picturing you trying to figure out why you had to do school work at home. And I was feeling sad when you signed the note and got caught!

  2. I always love your work, Shopgirl!

    School can be such a strange place for young ones. Not easy at all to fit in at times.

    You reminded me of a sweet time in my life of of catching dragonflies and eating mulberrys.

    Great post.

  3. Neat post! Your honesty is refreshing! Did you end up enjoying school after a time? This piece makes me want to read more! Have a blessed day!

  4. As Maria said, this post makes me want to know more. And the descriptions painted a a very beautiful picture....a very nice read.

  5. Great post as ever from a very lovely and talented writer. I could feel the frustration of not understanding why adults were so cross, it was so palpable in the writing.

  6. Children see the world so differently than adults. I also remember feeling totally misunderstood at school.
    I'm glad your imagination and creativity were never squelched.

  7. Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!
    Always remember:
    We all are always here to support you.

  8. Met you from shopgirl, loved your BLOGPOST, I look forward to reading more and giving more back, I have been out of blogging for a little while but have made a vow to blog at least every other day. Loved your story!

  9. Love it! :) it's too bad they didn't tell us what school was all about!

  10. Barbra - My mom calls me a "late bloomer", whatever that means. She retold me about my "early years" to show that I can turn things around in my own time. :)

    Loree - Thanks. I was especially young as I started 1st grade at 5 1/2. It's a really long story but my parents don't understand why I wanted to hold my son back a year when he started school.

    Maria - I know. I get stuck sometimes in writing a story and it does seem a bit unfinished now. I became sort of a teacher's pet (esp in lang arts) in 3rd grade.

    Caterpillar - Thank you. I wrote this one out pretty quickly as I got some helpful prompts from ShinyStarLight. It triggered a piece of memory that stood pretty vivid as a scene in a silent movie.

  11. HF&I - *blush* I just didn't understand a lot of things and didn't have the vocabulary to ask. Also it may be significant to know this was in an age in China when the teachers focused more on obedience than other aspects.

    Leonora - Me too. I became extremely interested language arts in 3rd grade, when a teacher took an interest in my writing. :)

    Karin D'Aunoy - Thank you (and Maria M) for hopping over. Comments are always greatly appreciated and I've been enjoying your blog posts as well.

    Doria - I really enjoyed your guest post. Thanks for reading and commenting. :) Truth be told, I probably was the one who missed the info when I listened to the birds outside.

  12. This post is refreshing and wonderful:) Congrats for both of you! great post!

  13. I'm really glad that you all liked this guest post; I was thrilled when Shopgirl sent it to me.