Aunt Anna, Megan’s mother, dropped us off on her way to work at the general store. Megan, my cousin, and I walked down the crumbly sidewalk where grass and wild flowers flourished between the cracks, toward Pineview School. My mind wandered as I ran my fingers over the feathery grass near the edge. It was my first day at a new school, and I was nervous and excited at the same time. I wasn’t sure what to wear but finally decided on my red skirt with a white poodle on one side and a white blouse. It hadn’t left much time for breakfast, but I had cinnamon toast on the drive.
Mother and I had moved to Pineview the summer of 1954 after Father died in a car crash. I met Miranda and Josie, which made the transition easier. Megan and her parents moved here near the end of the summer when Uncle Joe took over the management of Snow’s General Store when Mr. and Mrs. Snow retired. I went to Miranda’s eleventh birthday party on the long weekend where I met some of the other girls.
Megan’s husky voice brought me back to the present.”Miranda is waving at us.” Megan’s brown shoulder length hair was held back with a wide turquoise hair band that matched her dress.
I skip-walked to keep up with Megan’s long strides while we hurried to meet Miranda at the end of the sidewalk.
“Miss Grayson just came out and will ring the bell soon.” Miranda’s pony tail bounced up and down as we approached the yellow schoolhouse. She wore a pink dress with a full skirt with matching barrettes in her hair.
Groups of children gathered in front of a gnarled maple tree chatting. The yard sounded like a busy beehive until a bell rang and everyone rushed towards the steps. We arrived breathless and followed the others into the school.
I tucked my unruly reddish blond hair behind my ears while I paused in the doorway and gazed around the room. Two cloakrooms flanked each side of the door-one for the boys and one for the girls. It was different from what I was used to. This school consisted of 25 students while the class in my school in Oak River, had 15 just in my grade.
Miranda had told me in Pineview school one teacher instructed all students from grade one to eight. My new class consisted of four students-Miranda, Megan, Jeff and me. We made our way down the aisles between the long rows of desks that faced the front of the room. The younger children sat in the front, with the oldest at the back. There was the sound of shuffling feet as we stood to sing “O’Canada” and recite the Lord’s Prayer. Some of the students glanced at Megan and me as we took our seats again.
Our teacher, Miss Grayson was tall and slender and wore a freshly laundered blue floral dress with her straight sandy blond hair cut in a fashionable bob. “I want to introduce you to our new grade five students, Bess Silver and Megan Skye.”
“Good morning,” they said, looking at us.
Miss Grayson paused when taking the attendance. “Does anyone know why Mike and Jeff Lambert aren’t in school this morning?”
No one answered but a few students shook their heads. Paper rustled, and pencils scraped as we copied assignments from the blackboard behind the teacher’s desk.
We were doing our lessons when Mike and Jeff burst into the room.
“Why are you late?” Miss Grayson looked up from the book she was reading to the grade ones.
“Sorry. Father had an emergency with a cow, and we had to help.” Mike strolled forward and handed her a note.
“No excuses. Take your seats,” Miss Grayson picked up her fountain pen and made a note in her black attendance book.
“Umm, where do I sit?” Jeff glanced around the room.
“There’s an empty desk in front of me,” I heard snickers from the back of the room as Jeff walked to his desk.
“Take your seat. Your assignments are on the blackboard,” Miss Grayson turned towards the grade ones. “You are disrupting everyone.”
I looked up from my assignment to watch geese fly across the baby blue sky. The only noise was the honking geese and scraping of pencils. I watched one of the older boys pass Jeff a note when a bell rang, Jeff scowled at the grade seven boy.
“Psst. Bess, it’s time for recess.” Miranda closed her books and stacked them neatly on the desk corner.
“Already,” I closed my books and followed Miranda to the cloak room. Miranda wore one of her grandmother’s creations. The full skirted pink dress had a wide white belt and collar.
Excited voices filled the air, with everyone discussing assignments and summer activities. The younger girls gathered around Megan and me, asking questions about living in Oak River.
We walked across the veranda and down the steps. “Tell us about your old school,” Hope, a grade four student asked.
“It was a large two story building with eight class rooms. My classroom was the size of this entire school with 15 students,” I answered. “There were several teachers.”
Hope twirled her red skipping rope in circles. “You walk awkwardly. How come?”
“I had polio.” I pushed my long bangs out of my eyes.
“How awful. Weren’t you scared?” Hope pushed her black framed glasses with thick lenses up.
“Yes.” I polished my apple on my white blouse with embroidery on the collar. “I’m famished.” Hope’s long brown hair framed her oval face. and the thick lenses gave her eyes an owl-like appearance.
“Can you skip?” Hope asked.
“Not very well.” I chewed on my lower lip as I looked at the inquisitive girls.
“Coming Josie?” Hope grabbed her friends hand.
Miranda, Megan and I sat under the gnarled maple tree watching the girls skip. Miranda spread out her full pink skirt with her dainty hands.
The questions will die down in a few days. The little girls are curious about city life. Most of them haven’t been far away from home.”
I took a bite out of my apple and turned to see what was causing the commotion.
Note: This book will be available on Amazon in 3-5 days.