We bought our house. We lived there all through my school years so I never had the stress of changing schools. It cost us $10,500.00 which was less than the down payment on our mortgage, but those were different days, and it wasn’t much of a house. (See Singing the Poor Girl Blues in Memoirs). Since my mom’s English was limited, as were her life skills regarding purchasing a house, I recall going house-hunting with her while my sister was in school. The Finnish Consulate, himself, Mauno Kaihla, took us around. When I look back on that, I think that was very nice of him. I always had an admiration for him. The nursing home section of the Finnish Rest Home was named after him. The unfortunate thing was that years later, he died in hospital, waiting for placement. He couldn’t get to the top of the list any faster even though it was named for him. Ironic, eh?
I started school. They didn't have Junior Kindergarten at my school, so I was five. I went to Cody Public School. It was a beautiful old building on top of the hill. It was built in 1919. Each room had a large walk-in closet with two doorways, which they quaintly referred to as a cloakroom. A few years back the school was demolished to make way for condominiums. What a sad thing. So much history, and it had beautiful dark wood railings on the stairs. I hope those were salvaged. It makes me sad that I can’t go back there to walk on the grounds and reminisce. It’s like it was a dream to me.
My first day of school my mom came with me, and I didn’t leave her side for a moment. The next day, my sister was tasked with taking me. I cried, screamed, and fought. She dragged me up the hill in front of our house towards the school, as my mom watched from the window and cried. Although I’m sure I want’ amused by it at the time, I smile now as I remember being dragged that way for a few days until I submitted, passive-aggressively, to go to this place full of strangers.
I liked my teacher, Mrs. McDonaugh. She had black hair and was very kind. She used to say that if we were naughty, she would be very cross. I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I wanted her to like me. Once, I mistakenly called her Mom, which showed the affection I felt for her.
At school I was a real rule follower. It carried over to home. I would wake my mom up in the middle of the night. When she’d roll over and wake up, I’d say, “May I please go to the bathroom?” Eventually, I stopped asking permission at home.
One thing I didn’t mind about school was the toys. They had a whole toy kitchen with dishes and a stove and ironing board, and dolls. I loved it. We had so few toys at home.
My best friend in my early years was Sherri. She was Italian and Catholic. She would talk about going to her first communion. She showed me pictures of herself in a fancy white dress and gloves. I had no idea what she was talking about.
She also had amazing toys. I loved playing at her house. She had many dolls with real baby clothes that her mom washed in Ivory Snow. She had a buggy and crib with beautiful blankets for her dolls. She was fastidious with her belongings. I could never have her over to play at my house because I had no toys, but I appreciated that she shared hers. She also had the best school supplies at the beginning of each year, including a 64 pack of crayons, with a sharpener built-in. I had an 8-pack, maybe twelve, and not much else. It was hard not to be envious.
I had no paper to write on to practice my letters. I dreamed of having a blackboard like at school. Instead, I took the one page I had from school and glued it on the wall of my room. Yes, I glued it, so it would be like writing on a blackboard. When I got to the edge of the page, I just continued with my crayon on the wall. We eventually wall-papered over that, years later, but my early homework was up there for years. Years later, I saw a commercial where a child was writing on a refrigerator. I said to my mom, “Who would let their kid write on the fridge?” She said, “I seem to remember someone who wrote on the wall.”