It was my first day at school, a day that I hadn’t wanted to arrive. I loved being outdoors even then. The thought of being shackled to a desk, as gleefully described to me by my elder siblings made me weak with fright.
I had been placed next to a big bull of a boy with green snot candles leaking continually from his nose, even after he had wiped them away countless times with his shirt sleeve, they still poured forth.
Most of what happened that day has long since become a faded myriad of jumbled memories but the last hour of my first school day will live with me until my dying breath.
Like the rest of my fellow students I was a child of the war along with shortages and rationing it had brought with it, we didn’t know anything else, we knew life as it was then and no more.
We had been listening intently to a story, read by the teacher, suddenly she paused and looked up saying,
“Who can tell me where grapefruit comes from?”
When no one moved, I tentatively put up my hand and waited to be noticed.
“ Yes you there, the girl with the pink hair ribbon”
I took a deep breath and said in a small voice
“From a bottle miss”
All around were small blank faces, suddenly she was bearing down on me, she yanked me from my chair and pulled me toward the front of the classroom.
“ You stupid girl don’t you know that they grow? On trees, you silly, silly girl.”
She laughed, and the whole classroom exploded with laughter. I felt my face flame, my eyes fill and spill over with tears. Where was mummy? where was her pinny smelling of carbolic soap? I needed the comfort of her hand stroking my hair as I buried my face in her lap.
I realise now that the others laughed because she had laughed, they were just as ignorant as I had been, but back then I felt all alone and stupid. How did I now they grew on trees, I’d only ever drunk one from a bottle.