I understand why some people find me strange. They either have my full and devoted attention or I am completely oblivious to them. So many times, friends and family ask me why I was ignoring them the other day in the street or at the shop. They often feel that I was looking at them and ignored them on purpose. I really don’t do it on purpose, somehow, sometimes my brain just does not compute the obvious.
A little anecdote on the side. Apparently, sometime in my 20’s, I did it to a guy I was dating, I queued next to him in the supermarket and completely ignored him. The only reason I know this is because a friend told me. Spoiler alert, that relationship did not last. But this is for another time. Perhaps a bonus chapter about the noughties.
Anyway, I digress.
I was not exactly your typical little girl either, my hair was short, and I was dressed like a boy. In fact, my mum and I were regularly stopped by people telling her what beautiful blue eyes her son had.
I loved playing outside; I hated dresses and skirts and I found dolls boring. I remember a particular birthday was I got a doll as a present. The sadness on my face must have broken my dad’s heart as he immediately took me to the toy shop so I could choose a new present. I went for a magnificent car racing set with a big loop; I loved that toy for years. From there on, my dad uses to take me to the shop so I could choose what I liked for a present. That is probably why my first bike was a BMX. At home, at least, I could be myself.
Our neighbour’s son was Mat from my class, we use to have lots of fun playing together. His mum was always very kind to me, and his dad was a fisherman like mine.
His dad had left a load of bricks well stacked into a square in their garden. Mat and I loved to climb it and jump onto the grass. We used to clap our harms as fast as possible so we could fly! One of the most powerful memories I have from there though, is getting face to face with a hissing adder, and witnessing Mat’s mother running towards us like a Valkyrie warrior armed with a broom. Once Mat’s mum was finished with the adder it was completely and utterly flat, that is fierce motherhood for you!
After passing Mrs E’s class with flying colours, I finally got to 2nd year of primary (again!). This time Mrs S did not have a choice but to keep me in the class. I always admired the effort of imagery she made in insulting me. My personal favourite was “N. is the wagon I drag behind the train.”.
Mrs S was of medium stature with a huge dark hair perm on top of her head. I believe it was quite the fashion of the time, the bigger the hair the better in fact.
She did not like me, but she particularly disliked my friend Mat. I think he could sense that she hated him and that’s why he acted out. It was hard for Mat to stay still for a long period of time. So, to punish him, she ordered everybody in the class not to play with him at recess or else. Of course, I made a point of playing with him at recess as I believed what she was doing was wrong and unjust. Later, Mat’s mum had to move her son to another school a little further away from home to protect him from the psychological damage Mrs S was inflicting on him.
It was not uncommon for me to daydream with my eyes wide open. Most people around me use to find this rather unsettling, my eyes were wide open, but I was looking at nothing. From the outside, it must have looked like I was in a sort of paralysis or trans. But I was not paralysed, in fact, I was in another world inside my mind and so much more than anybody could ever imagine was going on inside. I have this constant internal monologue inside my brain, I suppose this is why I have been writing almost all my life. My “daydreaming” used to really perturb my teachers, and, most of all Mrs S hated it! She used to yell and humiliate me in front of everybody, it was quite a rude awakening!
Mrs S also loved to humiliate pupils who asked questions that she deemed as “stupid”. So, even if I had understood the topic, if I saw a kid in the class who looked lost and afraid to ask for help, I would raise my hand and ask the so-called “stupid” question. I did not care about being humiliated for asking, as I had helped that kid and as he felt better, so did I.
There was another boy in the class from a very poor family, but she hated him and bullied him severely. She said that he smelled so she put his desk and chair in the corridor as she considered him not worthy of following her class. I felt sad for him, but I never could pick up the courage to talk to him. With M it was easy as I had known him for years, and he was my neighbour.
As everything has an opposite, there was also a boy in this class that she absolutely adored, his name was G. She was adamant that this boy was some sort of genius! She enterprise to have him skip a class and go directly from 2nd year to 4th year at primary.
I was told many years later that G never really recovered from the trauma of skipping a class. He was completely lost in 4th year as he did not have the level required. His chaotic academic path stopped mid-secondary at the tender age of 14 when he became an apprentice to learn a trade. I sometimes wonder how different Guillaume’s life would have been had he never met Mrs S as a primary teacher.
Even though this teacher is engraved in my memories for all the wrong reasons, I am grateful to her as she made me discover so much more about myself. I wasn’t so passive after all, I had spirit and I could be feisty. All I needed is to find a cause, and mine was taking umbrage on injustice and unfairness.
I finally moved on to primary 3rd year. The teacher there did not see me as a problem. In fact, she told my mother how amazed she was at my vocabulary which, in her view, far exceeded the level of my peers. Truthfully most kids my age did not understand me half the time as I was using a very accurate vocabulary to express myself.
Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of my teacher back then. What I do remember though is that she was a lovely blond lady who was passionate about drama. This was a great year for me, I loved every minute of it. She involved a drama professional with our class and all year long we prepared a magnificent theatre play. Our play was a take on the opera “The magic flute” by Mozart.
I was initially cast to be Prince Tamino and I was very excited about the role, but our teacher considered that a girl even a boyish one like me could not play the role of a prince. I was disappointed but later I was given the role of Princess Pamina, the daughter of King Sun and queen night. I had to learn to act like a girly girl. It was not easy, but I took on the role with all my heart. I learnt a lot of variable lessons in this year of pure and magical drama. The lesson learnt turned out to be invaluable to help me mask the traits that had me struggle to fit in.