I was in second grade. I felt really sick to my stomach… and so did a bunch of other kids in my class. We were all instructed to lay down on the rug during story time. I laid there for a while, writhing in pain. I knew that it wasn’t long before my entire lunch came back out. After making eye contact with my teacher and telepathically communicating that I was about to barf, she said, “Go.” I ran for the door and I made it just up the hall a bit to the water fountain. And that was where I blew chunks. Everywhere. I remember feeling so guilty that our strange quiet janitor, Thurman, would have to clean up my mess. But mostly, I remember feeling the most humiliated that I’d ever felt in my entire life.
That is, until fifth grade. Fifth grade was a year of humiliation. I was pretty embarrassed the day that my teacher announced that everyone in the class had failed the history test. Everyone except for me. And not only had I passed it but I had make a 100. As my reward I could go and sit in the gym or have computer time while everyone else did their make up work. I wanted to climb under my desk. This was bad. But not nearly as bad as the two things that happened to me in the bathroom that school year.
I vividly remember the day that I stopped pooping in public. I didn’t often need to poo at school. I kept that for home most of the time. But at least back then, if I needed to, I could and would. Until one dreaded day when I had taken the hall pass to the restroom for an unusually timed afternoon movement of my bowels. As I was doing my business someone else in the bathroom said, rather rudely and loudly, “Eeeeew, what is that awful smell?” I was mortified. Someone was smelling my poop and talking about it. What on earth was wrong with me? Why would I even dream of letting myself go to the bathroom right there where someone else might… gasp… smell it? From that day on, I didn’t poop in public again. Well, at least not for a very long time. Sometime near college maybe I got over that because when you live in a dorm, pooping in public is your only option. But I blame school for some of my digestive issues that I am currently still trying to overcome.
Believe it or not, there was something else that happened to me during the fifth grade that was even more traumatizing than the pooping incident. Only this time, it involved… well… blood. When I was 11 and 4 months, I started my period. Thankfully I started it for the first time in the safety of my own home, with my mom right by my side. I was cramping and miserable and so she let me stay at home “sick” to rest and deal with this new journey I was about to take from the comfort of my couch. But after two days, I had to go back to school. And I was bleeding. A lot. It was terrible and awful and I hated it. I was so nervous that someone would be able to tell. Turned out, I was right to be so paranoid. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I remember not wanting to take a purse or backpack to the bathroom when I went or else someone, everyone would know that I needed to… change… my pad? So instead I just didn’t change it. And by about ten o’clock that morning, I was in trouble. No one had bothered to tell me that I should not wear light colored knit clothing when I was experiencing the heavy flow days of my period. I had this peach and lime green outfit… cotton stretch pants and a long tunic type top. I think I wore it with knock off Keds (Thanks “Dirty Dancing”). I wish I had been told that jeans or black pants and a dark top would be a better ensemble on such days. Well, I took yet another trip to the bathroom and came to the realization that I was going to have to go home. I was in bad shape. Thankfully, I had a denim jacket on that day and I was able to wrap that thing around my waist. It was going to save me until my mom came to get me.
Everyone else was at PE. I went back to my classroom to tell my teacher that I had to go home. My “stomach” issue was back from the previous two days and I was going to need to call my mom. All the while I’m feeling so gross. More gross than I had ever felt before or have ever felt since. Then there is the added factor that I didn’t exactly like my teacher. I was actually quite scared of her, despite the fact that I was teacher’s pet. So imagine my misery when she started to question me. “Why do you have that jacket around your waist?” “What is going on with you?” “Are you throwing up?” Ahhhhhh!!! I just wanted my mama.
At this point, my dad had started working this new schedule where he worked on weekends and was off two days during the week. When he was off, he and my mom would often drive to the mall for a little shopping and a lunch date if you will. This, it seemed, was one of those days. This was before cell phones so when a parent didn’t answer the phone back then, they called the emergency contact number in your records. For me, that was my neighbor. The same neighbor with whom I’d been left the night my dad was having a heart attack…. who put me in bed with her, hugged me tightly in my sleeplessness and assured me that it couldn’t be my dad’s heart because he didn’t have one. That neighbor.
That neighbor and the little preschoolers she was baby-sitting drove across town to pick me up from school. And in the backseat, in tears I had to tell her that I had bled all over my clothes and I needed to go home and change.
Thankfully she was sympathetic and thankfully I knew where the extra key was hidden. I spent the next half hour washing myself up, putting on new clothes (jeans and a red sweat shirt, thankyouverymuch) and then I walked back over to the neighbor’s house, exhausted, relieved, and traumatized for life.
Unfortunately for me, my parents didn’t seem to be phased by the bloody horror show that was my experience that day. They didn’t really see school as an option and frankly, my dad found the challenges in my life to be wonderful little nuggets of life learning. I was a steel workers daughter, the daughter of an airborne ranger after all. I could handle anything. I would go on to have plenty of other embarrassing school moments… such as dirty dancing at the one and only school dance my high school ever held (yes, you can blame me for there never being another one, GHS class of 96), making out with my boyfriend in the bandroom, having boys lift my way-too-short skirts with a broom stick while I was on stage rehearsing for shows, and even in college when I fell on my way to English class, flat of my face, scraping my chin because my bell bottoms were too wide and my platforms were too tall. But never again would I experience anything quite as horrifying as what happened to me in the 5th grade. While there are many many reasons that I have chosen to homeschool, I have to admit that the power to help my children avoid this type of ridiculous humiliation over normal bodily functions tops the list. My kids can puke, poop, and eventually bleed in the privacy of their own bathroom. And I like it that way. Perhaps they will be a little less screwed up than I am as a result.