Friday, June 6, 2014

memories of first grade

My niece is starting first grade in a few days, and I can't help but remember how I was back then.

My dad bought me a jacket from the nearby market. It was "reversible"--the first time I encountered that word, I believe--and it was light blue "outside", and checkered/plaid pink "inside". It was for the rainy days, he said.

It was a rainy day, a gloomy day when I got pulled out of class to be with a group of older students holding a couple of cartolinas (white? blue?) with some names written on them. "Just follow them and do what they do," said my adviser Sister Dolores, an elderly nun who had taught us the Litany by heart and had given each of us rosaries (I chose a beige-colored one, and it's still with me).

So I did, even though I didn't know what was happening. An older student "coached" me on what to say. Say for what, I wondered. I didn't ask; I didn't know these students and I was terribly shy.

Off we went to the next classroom. I think it was a fourth-grade class. Some of the older kids went in, and before I knew it, I was being pushed into the room in front of the whole class.

I just stood there.

"Say your name," the older kids whispered.

I couldn't. Some of the students smiled at me.

"I'mLaurenReginaSVillaramafromGradeOneCarmel." I couldn't say what I had to say next. I stuttered.

[Stuttering is something I do best when nervous, and sometimes even when I'm not. I stutter when handing my fare for a jeepney or shuttle ride. I stutter when asking drivers to stop. I stutter when asked to read in Filipino, where there are a lot of sentences starting in P, B, M, T, K, and A. I stutter when I'm telling a story and my brain works faster than my mouth. I stutter when calling my brother.]

Probably considering me a failure, they let the other students in one by one, who confidently did their spiels. It was something called a "campaign" and they wanted the other students to "vote" for them. I was to be their Grade One Representative, which I didn't understand.

They let me go back to my classroom. I don't remember much about what happened next, except that I was wearing my jacket and it was raining.

The Grade One Class of Sister Dolores, 1991-1992. I'm the one with the pink(!) fluffy(!) headband, untamed bangs, and visible scapular. That's Sister Dolores in the green blouse; our school principal Sister Fidelis is the one at the left. (Our school was run by Carmelite Sisters, and everyone gets scapulars during the Feast of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.)

The rosary given by Sister Dolores.