My sister started kindergarten in our local Williamsburg, Brooklyn public school and my mother, having nowhere to leave me, took me along.
Then, it was time for us to go.
I wasn’t staying?
I refused to move, wailed, held my breath and threw myself to the cold tile floor.
Years later, my mother told me that my face began to turn blue. She thought I was going to die.
Someone, she managed to drag me home.
The next autumn, I started school.
I loved everything about it. I loved the wooden blocks, the crayons, the musical instruments. I chose the triangle. Ping! The metal vibrated, demanding everyone’s attention.
We had two teachers. Miss McGillicuddy was gray haired and rigid. Miss Mecurio (I called her Miss Mercurochrome) was younger and comforting.
My frequent questions must have annoyed Miss McGillicuddy because one day she struck me on the top of the head with a ruler. It landed on a hair barrette, driving it into my scalp. When I returned home, I told my mother. She wanted to go to the school and speak with the principal. I wouldn’t let her. I thought they would expel me.
Our class was composed of Italian, Irish and Jewish children. There was one non-Catholic, non-Jewish girl. Her dresses were starched and ironed like mine. We sat together and shared toys, giggles and secrets.
One day, I asked her why her skin was dark.
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging.
“Did you try washing it?” I asked.
‘I wash and wash. That’s the way I am.”
“Look,” I said, taking her hands and turning them over, “the color came out here.”
She looked at her palms.
At the end of the year, we left Williamsburg. I sat next to to my father as he drove to our new neighborhood and thought, “Now, my life will change forever”.