Hattie’s View
by Ellen Coffey

Going to school for the first time is an memorable experience. Do you remember your first day at school? Sure you do. It’s a life time memory made of people you don’t know.

“School is where you get book learnin,” Grandma Hattie said.

Anyway my grandchildren are grown now. But this year we started with another generation.

This past week my 5 year old great-granddaughter, Lilly Jane, started preschool. It was a short walk from the curb to the school door. Butterflies were in her stomach, I’m sure, but she still didn’t want anyone to hold her hand or escort her inside. She was taking her big girl steps on what will probably be a 12 year scholastic journey.

When I ask her how she felt those first few days she whispered, “scared.”

Flip the calendar back 60 years to my first school day experience. I was scared because I would walk to school alone.

First, my Mom began by designing a safe route for my long walk. Our house was located at 1109 Greene Street in Columbia My walk would be to Pickens at Gervais Street.

I was to walk directly down Greene to Pickens Street.  We had no car, no phone. I would be walking about a mile alone. “Enjoy the walk,” Grandma suggested.

As Mama walked with me she pointed to landmarks, along the way.

“Remember this, Ellen, notice people and things along the way. While walking stay on the side walk. Take no short cuts. Use the same route everyday.”

The big day finally came. After a pat on the head Mom blew me a kiss. I was on my way to school.

It seemed like a long lonely walk from the corner of Green Street and Assembly Streets to McMasters School. Mom cautioned me to watch for people sitting on porches. “Smile, wave but don’t stop not even for a kool-ade or cookie.”

During my last summer visit with Grandma, I recall putting my head on her lap. Her apron smelled of apples and cinnamon.

“School will be fine. You will love it. You will make lots of friends. Some you will never forget.”

She was right. I made friends who joined me on the walk. I loved my teacher. I loved books. I even liked homework. I can’t remember but one girl . . . Roxy. She sat directly behind me. She cried so hard for so long that she threw up on me. The nasty smelling stuff went down the back of my dress and all into my hair. Roxy’s Mom came and picked her up early

The teacher couldn’t get me clean so I walked home smelling pukey and feeling sorry for myself. Someday . . . Someday . . . I thought I’ll forget.

Still, to this day I remember my first day at school and wonder whatever happened to Roxy, Y’all