Monday, July 11, 2016

Second Grade: New School, New Challenges

During my second-grade year, we moved from Little Rock to Alexander, Arkansas. My mother had married my step-father and they "wanted a better life" by moving out of the city.

Interesting tidbit, they made a house trade deal with another family. They took our house and we took theirs. I think somebody had to pay the other a little on top, I think it was us. I thought the concept was very innovative at the time. I still think so.

Our house on Eddie Lane was a red brick house with a carport, a front yard, and a chain-link fence backyard. It had three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and a large den along the back of the house.

Alexander House

Our house in Alexander was a double-wide trailer with brown siding, permanently attached to brick blocks with brown skirting on the bottom. It had four bedrooms, two full baths, and no den. The original address was Rt 2 Box 306E, Alexander, Arkansas. That is not the address now and I am not sure what it is.

The house also looks much different now, it has been painted white, and is way smaller than I remember. LOL.

It had a huge grass front yard with a long gravel driveway from the road to the side of the house. The backyard was surrounded by a chainlink fence. We had a sandbox, pool (surrounded by a tall wooden fence), an orchard, a chicken coop, a dog pen, and a huge field also separated by a fence.

The orchard included three apple trees, a peach tree, a pear tree, and a cherry tree, as well as grape and strawberry vines along the fence.

The chicken coop had chickens, ginny pigs (small chickens), a rooster, a male turkey, and a row of rabbit pins.

For a time, when my dad returned to live with us for a while, we had Beagles in the dog pin for hunting.

The large attached field was divided into two sections. The back section was just woods. The front section had goats and pigs as well as a vegetable garden at various times.

To the right side of the house was a dirt road leading to two houses behind us. On the other side of the road was a forest owned by Reynold's Aluminum Plant. It was not fenced off and we often played there. For some unknown reason, the forest in the back of our field was scary but the huge forest next to us was not.

The forest across the dirt road is now full of houses while the dirt road has been paved and extended.

Child Support

My dad did not pay child support for years, and there was zero enforcement in Arkansas [really the whole country] at the time. My mom had several court orders requiring my dad pay child support, but the Sheriff's office refused to serve my dad.

The prominent opinion was that a woman who got divorced deserved her fate.

My mother, ever the problem-solver, decided to join the Sheriff's office so that she could legally serve the court orders herself - not just hers, but all the other women who experienced the same justice roadblock.

Women were not Arkansas law enforcement officers at the time.

She had to graduate from the police academy. No easy feat as it was a testosterone filled environment extremely threatened by women wanting to enter the profession.

But she was desperate - and desperation is a great motivator.

Despite all the sexual and physical harassment, threats, and "hazing," she did graduate and started working for the Sheriff's office.

She also served my dad the child support enforcement orders.

Not that it helped. The courts just ignored the violations.

My mom's next project was to create a government enforcement mechanism - Yes, my mother was one of the women who created the first Child Support Enforcement Agency in Arkansas.

Way to go Mom!

I guess my passion for advocacy came naturally through her.

The Bus

My earliest memories once we moved to Alexander revolved around school, which was Bryant Elementary.

On my first day, I rode the bus to school. The bus ride was about an hour.

I was sitting in my seat minding my own business and the boy behind me, Cameron Johnson, started randomly pulling my hair. I kept turning around telling him to stop. He continued. When I reached back to hit him, he grabbed my hand and kissed it.

I was disgusted. I started saying he gave me cooties and as soon as we exited the bus, I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands.

Someone told me, I don't remember who, that this is how boys show they like you.

While I agree with the current philosophy not to tell kids that because it teaches them boys hitting girls is both okay and a sign of affection (not a good lesson in the long-run), at least in the case of Cameron, it was true.

Turns out Cameron lived up the street from me and we played together for the rest of the year, maybe even the next, until his family moved.

New Name

On my first day of school, I sat in my assigned chair while the teacher called the roll. The teacher said 'Deedra' several times. Finally, I noticed she was looking at me. She said, "Deedra, why are you not answering?" I said, "That's not my name. My name is DD." She said, "Yes, that is your name and you will be in trouble if you don't say 'Here.'"

So I said, "Here," and was mad the rest of the day.

I went home and told my mom the teacher was saying I had to answer to a name that wasn't mine. My said, "Deedra?" I said, "Yes. How did you know?" My mom said, "Because that is your real name. 'DD' is your nickname."

Evidently, my mom and grandmother had always told my teachers I went by 'DD,' so no one had ever called me 'Deedra' before.

I fell in love with my name instantly. 'Deedra' sounded so exotic, unique. Other than my close family, everyone has called me 'Deedra' from that day forward to today.

The Clock and States

Evidently the first part of second grade at Bryant Elementary, or maybe even earlier, included learning how to tell time on an analog clock. Though I knew about time and how to read the time on a digital clock, I had never learned on an analog clock.

Another lesson I was lacking that the other second graders knew at Bryant was the U.S. states on a map. I had never learned that either.

Both of these points were a constant embarrassment to me. Not because I didn't know, but because the teacher embarrassed me several times in front of the class over it.

She never took me aside and taught me the information, instead she would have each child come up and show their skills, make me get up and stand silently because I didn't know, and then send me to the back of the class with either the clock or the U.S. map to "study" on my own while she taught the class other things.

She always told me and the class that was my punishment "for being behind."

Without any help from the teacher, I made it my mission to learn how to tell time on an analog clock and know the U.S. states - though I continued to have negative associations with both all through school.

We also learned the B-I-N-G-O song and always sang it when we were lining up to go to recess, lunch, or any other activity outside our classroom.

First Embarrassing Memory

Most of younger years I would 'bloat' whenever I ate. It was not how much I ate and I never figured out what caused it. These days, no doubt, I would be diagnosed with a good allergy or something. That is probably true, but whatever it was I grew out of it.

Once I wore a wrap-around skirt to school. During lunch, I began to 'bloat' and the skirt was uncomfortable around my waist, so I untied it but left it wrapped.

Then I forgot.

I got up and walked down the row of tables to get a napkin - and my skirt promptly fell down. I quickly reached down and picked it up, then looked around to see if anyone noticed.

No one did... except Cameron. I saw him looking at me, and then he looked away. He never mentioned it. As far as I know, he never mentioned it to anyone else either because no one ever teased me about it.

The Car

When my mom and step-dad decided to move to Alexander, my oldest sister was in high school. There was a big discussion because she wanted to remain in her same school. The 'story' I heard was that my mom and step-dad were trying to figure out how to buy her a car so she could drive to school each day, and my dad suddenly delivered a red FireBird for her.

The 'story' continued that he only bought it to 'show up' my mom, being the ultimate 'Disneyland dad.'

I have no way of knowing whether that was true, though he never did anything like that for any of his daughters, including that one, before or after that.

Class Culture

I never felt that I fit in at Bryant Elementary. I got used to it and it got better in middle school, but elementary was a struggle for me. Not academically, I excelled after getting over the analog clock and states, but the culture was difficult for me.

We were poor. I never knew we were poor until I moved to Bryant. I only knew then because the kids put everyone in categories according to "wealth" - even in second grade.

I wore hand-me-down clothes from all three of my sisters - so most clothes were definitely out-of-style, though not overly worn or washed out.

I know when we went to Watson Elementary we participated in the free breakfast and lunch program set up for poor kids - though I did not understand that was what it was until years later.

I do not recall whether we participated in the free lunch program at Bryant after elementary, though I am sure we were eligible, so maybe we did. For sure I know we did not in high school.

Because of my clothes (and maybe the 'free lunch' tickets?), I was told I was in the poor kids "group."

One day the subject of pools came up. I mentioned that my house had a pool. The other kids said only rich kids and had pools, and since I was not rich, I must be lying.

Since we lived an hour away from school, inviting the kids over to go swimming was not an option. Most of the people in Alexander were equally not on the 'rich' side.

I struggled with the logic all around.

We lived in, what I considered, a large house on a lot of land with a pool, which should have indicated that we were "rich." Yet, we ate government provided food [government cheese was the best cheese on earth, as anyone who had it knows] and I wore clothes passed down from my older sisters, making me "poor."

I finally decided the entire idea of 'rich' and 'poor,' as well as the subsequent assumption that somehow "rich" kids were better than "poor" kids was just stupid and not true.

The whole 'rich/poor' designations and associations continued throughout my school years at Bryant, which both teachers and students seemed to be very concerned with, but I just learned to ignore it as not important.

I also learned to steer clear of those who were obsessed with 'who was who' in regards to 'rich/poor' and instead judged people by how they treated others.

Deedra Abboud is the founder of the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, a "rising tide raising all boats" resource on the art and science of finding solutions, not fault - at work, at home, and in the community. She is an author, keynote speaker, lawyer, and frequent media resource. When she's not helping clients or speaking at organization events, she's traveling the world.  At last count, she's been to over 15 countries including Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

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