Saturday, March 3, 2012

Connie's World (Part 1)

Another story from one of Mom's early 1990s writing classes. It appears to be a semi-autobiographical story about Mom going into the second grade, but also feeling different from the other children due to her leg braces.

I say it's semi-autobiographical because, while I don't think it's a direct account of her starting second grade, Alice and Terry were two of her siblings. I also remember her talking about having to be carried up the flights of stairs at school, because the school didn't have an elevator. I'm also sure the feelings expressed by the Connie in the story were real ones Mom felt, as well.

The title is Mom's. The photo is Mom, left, with another brother, Pike, and sister Mickey. Mom's braces can almost be seen in the shadows.

The first day of school - children are excited - another grade, another year older; but for one little girl it is another year full of difficulties.

"Connie, time to get up and get ready for school," Mom hollers from downstairs. "Alice, will you help her with her shoes?"

"Sure, Mom, I'll make her look special. Can't believe she is in the second grade already. The summer has gone so fast." Alice rushes upstairs. She has been up for hours helping Mom in the kitchen cooking breakfast for the gang already outside doing the chores. Alice is a senior in high school and to Connie the big sister to be admired.

"Alice, will they like me? I can't play on the playground like they can."

"But just think of how much you are able to do this year. Last year we carried you to school. Now you can walk, even though it is slow. All your friends will be so excited. So what if you can't keep up?" Alice reassures her.

"These shoes are so ugly. Why can't they put pretty shoes on these things," she said pointing to the heavy long-leg braces she was putting on her legs. The long iron flattened rods on either side of her legs were joined by three dull brown leather straps, with buckles on the front of each strap. One of these straps held the calf of the leg, one held the hip area while still another topped the apparatus. Several buckles also held a leather knee pad keeping the knee in place, as she had no strength to hold them straight. Ugly brown high-top shoes connected the bottom with long laces. Alice laced the shoes, while Connie buckled the seven buckles on each leg.

"There, we got that done. Record time, too," Alice said as she tied the final bow of the shoe lace. "Here, let me help you up." Sliding both legs off the bed, she pushed down the small steel slider on both sides of each brace. This held the brace in an upright position holding her leg completely stiff. One hand on the bed, Alice holding the other, she stood up. "There, you look beautiful!" she exclaimed straightening out her dress.

"Thank you for the new sundress. At least that part of me looks nice. I just wish they could put prettier colors on these. Then I wouldn't look so out of place," she said again, pointing at her shoes.

"You look just fine. Here, let me help you with your hair. Then surely everyone will look at you and not look at your legs." Alice had curled Connie's hair the night before so she combed it back and put it in a barrette. "Wait, I have just the thing!" She ran out of the room and returned with a bright red barrette. "Here, let's put this one in."

"But that is your new barrette," Connie protested.

"Well, you can wear it today." Slipping the barrette in her hair, she brushed back the curls.

"That's perfect. Now relax. Everything will be all right. The kids will love you for what you are and the ones who don't, well, don't worry about those anyway."

"It's so hard being different. I just wish I could be like everyone else, just once."

"Everyone is different in some sort of way. Yours is just a little more visible, that's all. Now let's get downstairs before the boys get in and eat all the breakfast. Mom made pancakes today." Connie was short for her age, so Alice picked her up easily so they could get downstairs faster.

Mom had her place already set with pancakes ready to eat and a glass of milk beside her plate.

"My, don't you look nice," came from Terry, walking in from outside, dressed in his grubby work clothes, smelling of hog manure. He is tall and very handsome, when he is all dressed up. A sophomore in high school and was the envy of her classmates last year. He is strong and carried Connie to and from the car and up all the stairs at school. The other kids liked the attention he not only paid Connie, but the compliments paid to the other little girls.

"I'm in the second grade," she proudly stated, setting herself down at the table, as though being in the second grade made her all grown up.

"Hurry up! It is getting late. Your breakfast is ready. Terry get washed up. You smell very bad this morning." Mom rushed into the kitchen from the pantry carrying a plate of fresh pancakes.

"Are you ready for your first day of school?" she said, turning to me. "Be careful, don't spill the syrup on your new dress," she added, shoving a napkin in front of her like mothers do.

"The hogs were especially messy this morning," Terry continued, explaining the foul odor. Living on a farm, you would expect such odors to invade even your kitchen.

He washed up quickly, swallowed his pancakes and ran upstairs to get dressed. Within minutes, it seemed we were ready to go.

"Let me pull the car around," Terry said as he grabbed another pancake on the way out of the door with an arm-load of books and school supplies.

"Connie, let me carry your books and papers. We all have an extra amount of papers today." Alice picked up the mound of supplies and walked out the door.

"Let me hold your hand and help you down the steps." Mom grabbed Connie's hand. She managed quite well, but needed someone's hand or a railing to grab onto.

The car full, they waved good-bye to Mom and drove off. Connie felt just a little bit afraid. It is so easy to be at home where it is safe. She felt she belonged, no one stared at her, no one felt she was that different. Away from home it was different. The constant questions. "What happened to you?" was the most asked question from the younger kids, also "why do you have those things on your legs?" The best she could do was to ignore it. Some day maybe she would have the answers.

Go to Part 2 of Connie's World

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