August 23, 2K
A Little Bit of Heaven
Growing Pains ©
Dedicated to my Loving Parents
By Pamela Carvajal Drapala
My Momma was a very hard working woman raising three young children, two, eight, and ten years old, all alone after my Daddy passed away in the early sixties. The times of our childhood were difficult for all of us. Nevertheless, we survived life’s trying moments. I must admit now that I am an adult, some sweet memories formed out of some very embarrassing moments during my enrollment at O. C. Johnson Elementary School located in Yuma, AZ.
When I look back at grammar school, I cannot believe how clear my memories are. Yet, when I’m supposed to remember a simple thing, like picking up bread at the store after work, I forget. The brain sure does work in mysterious ways.
Before I entered first grade with Mrs. McIntire, I tested for remedial classes. The school said I showed tendencies of a slow learner. During the testing, a school evaluator showed me pictures of several items for me to identify, but I couldn’t identify the garden spade. I’d never seen a garden spade before in my life. In fact, I had never seen anyone work in a garden before.
My first few years of my life were spent in a housing development for married couples with children at the University of Arizona in the late fifties. My Daddy was earning his Masters Degree in elementary teaching. So, my parents didn’t have time to do much gardening while at the university.
I failed the test. It must have looked and sounded strange when I, a mere six-year-old, started to argue with the evaluator that I did indeed know what a spade was. I told her that a spade was a suit of playing cards marked with a black figure shaped symbol. See, my Daddy played a lot of poker with his school friends while enrolled at the University when he wasn’t studying his books or being a father to my brother, George and I.
The school scolded my Daddy because a child has no business knowing how to play poker. That’s when I discovered an important lesson. Everyone has their own point of view and some words in the English language do have multiple meanings.
I don’t remember second grade too well with Mrs. Sirrine my second grade teacher. That was the year that my Daddy died. For some reason or another, this year is unclear to me. I guess that’s what happens when you lose a precious part of your childhood. I do know that although my Daddy died, Momma kept living on the best she could for us kids.
I think my third grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Nick. I remember vaguely that my Momma saved her pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in her small beige jewelry box so that we could have at least have one hot nutritious meal a-day at the school cafeteria. Money was tight, and there were no extras, in fact, what we had in our home had been meager after Daddy died.
I just have one question, though. How many times can a mother darn a pair of socks with a sewing needle? The answer . . . ten to fifteen times or perhaps more. Wearing darned socks to school can be an embarrassment for a small child and is very painful especially when one’s has out grown their shoes. I guess that’s where the saying comes from . . . grin and bear it! To this day, I make sure that I my daughters have plenty of good socks, and the first time they show any kind of wear, it’s time to toss the socks in the trash.
Because, I was having difficulty reading in third grade, Momma placed me in a summer reading program at Mary Elizabeth Post School in Yuma, Arizona so that I could improve my reading skills. The plan was to go reading in the morning, then go to swimming lesson at Abe Marcus Pool afterwards. The school and the pool were walking distance from each other.
How Momma ever balanced her private life and working life, is beyond me. All I know, she was one smart mother who always had a plan. Momma knew that swimming lessons would prove valuable for her children, especially with all the swimming pools, canals, lakes, ponds, and the Colorado River in the Yuma area.
One day in fifth grade, school pictures were to be taken at school. I wanted my dark hair to look very nice since I didn’t have a new outfit to wear as the other children in my class would. So, I curled my shoulder length hair in about thirty or forty curlers the night before. Talk about a painful night.
The next day, my hairdo was so big that my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Steiert, said “Pammie, what did you do to your hair? It looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket!” Little did he know, I was to the first person to coin the expression, BIG HAIR. To this day, the bigger my hair is, the better it looks.
Kids simply love to make fun of each other in school and being petite and all, I was made fun of quite a bit. However, when my peers were selecting sides for team sports, I was always chosen first. I could kick a football and throw softball as well or better than any other boy in fifth grade at O. C. Johnson School.
One day, while I was playing softball, I made the mistake of trying to catch a fast ball without a softball mitt. My middle hand finger bent all the way back, but my finger didn’t break. Boy, it swelled up big immediately. Innocently, I didn’t know I was giving the birdie to everyone as I showed my sprain finger to them. Of course, I needed to show it to the teacher that was monitoring the playground that day. He just so happened to be Mr. Steiert, my fourth grade teacher.
I soon was to be in sixth grade. My Uncle Johnny, my deceased Daddy’s older brother, sold shoes at McDonald Department Store at the Yuma Downtown Mall. Uncle Johnny knew that Momma could only afford only one pair of shoes for me for the entire school year. Uncle Johnny convinced my mother to buy me new shoes in a size and a half-bigger than I needed. He really thought I would grow into the shoes eventually.
Wrong, so, I coped with the situation the best I could. I stuffed my flat, black leather strapless shoes with toilet paper everyday so they would at least fit a little tighter. It didn’t matter though. My shoes still made the sound, clip clop, clip clop everywhere I walked. To this day, I have more shoes in my closet than, Imelda Marcos, The Former First Lady of the Philippines, does. It is strange how certain childhood events affect us later in life.
Finally, when I reached sixth grade, I was the first girl in my class to bloom on top. My girl, friends, gave me such a hard time. They said I stuffed my bra with toilet paper. (Boy, that stuff sure does have many uses, doesn’t it?) Of course, I didn’t stuff my bra. I was an early bloomer. The girls immediately stopped talking about me when they all started budding at once on top themselves in just a short time. I was just the leader of the pack.
We weren’t children anymore, and that was a sad moment for me. We graduated from grammar school and entered a new time in our lives. We were now teenagers with teenage woes and teenage enjoys. We left our sweet Barbie dolls, used jump ropes, and jacks behind in our bedroom closets at home, never to be sweet children again. We would only relive that part of our lives if we had the opportunity to be around children when we grew up.
When Ashley, my daughter, came home from High School the other day, she showed me where she skinned up her knees while practicing volleyball. She was in tears because she didn’t want to have any scars on her knees. We sat down together on our thirty-year-old sofa and talked a bit. I showed her all my scars on my knees from playing sports at school. Soon, Ashley didn’t feel so bad after all. I never realized that the skinned knees would bond us closer together as mother and daughter.
You know, now that I think of it, growing up wasn’t so bad after all. Good times and sad times did happen, but you know, Momma loved us kids and school taught me how to poke fun at myself, and that was a good thing, don’t you think?