A small town and a small school. I attended this school, grade one through twelve with one or two leaving and one or two joining, a class of 22 children. Growing up together, more brothers and sisters than friends or classmates. We shared much in common, moving from room to room, from teacher to teacher, as the years progressed.
Laughingly, I must share, I remember taking waxed paper from our lunch box and setting it at the top of the metal slippery slide, sitting on the wax paper and making the slide faster and even more dangerous. Oh, yes I am old! Yet that did work making the rust from the weekend's rain, gone and on the waxy shine you zipped. My memories from those years are fond for the most part. But there was a time...
It was about 1955 that I would see a student out on the playground, but not in class. He was a short boy and a little chubby, always wearing the same dirty shirt with a small place where the stitching had come loose. His pants were once brown but now faded and holes at the knees. The shirt was a bit too small, as his tummy showed in his quick movements. Laughing loudly and jumping he would slip and dart around, weaving through the taller boys, trying to reach the ball. I found him entertaining and I enjoyed the way he played. I laughed, looking around, I wondered why I laughed alone.
I would sit on the sidelines with a group of girls, watching him trying to roll about in the grass, while others played around him.
One day he ran over to where we were sitting, and plopped right beside me. Such a vivid smile and so many freckles, his red hair short in the butch style. Smiling I handed a cookie to him from my box. I remember those cookies made by my Mom, but I have no memory of what he said or what I said in return...
It was a long time ago, and while I vividly recall this boy, what may have happened, or said, has totally faded from my thoughts.
What I do recall with childhood pain, was everyone laughing at me, and crying uncontrollably. In the following days it got so bad, they would move their desks away from me. Only an inch on all sides, so the teacher did not notice, but I certainly did. I became the girl who saw and heard things that were not there. I became the one to pick on, it was most painful.
On the small school yellow bus, the seat next to me remained empty, even though the bus was over crowded, with all the classes blended. It was as if I smelled badly or was horribly ugly. I stopped seeing the boy... Day after day I arrived home red faced and teary. Finally school was over and it was none too soon for me. By fall I hoped it would stop.
We were lucky in our little hilly, farm town to have a small lake, it was like the town grew about the land surrounding this pond over time. This body of water was not large, in fact at times it became smaller when the rains were limited and the springs feeding it slowed. The diving board would be locked off, as the depth became dangerous for diving. A large sign on the dock saying closed.
I often looked at the diving board, for I could not wait for my swimming lessons to advanced to that wonderful board.
The swimming lessons provided a break from the heat for us children and it was social for our Moms also. Sitting on a towel they cut the string beans or other garden produce and watched their children from nearby.
On one summer day during this time, I stood by my Mom wiping with a towel and dripping everywhere. I happened to look at the board and there he was! The Boy. I waved and he waved back, then he turned and dove head first, No, NO it is closed, the water is too shallow. He was gone...
I never saw him again.
As an adult, I did do some research. The only event that could have explained this: In the 1940s a young boy had drowned when swimming unattended, he was found later, dead.