Friday, August 27, 2010

First Day of School

A few of the blogs I follow have had recent posts relating to the first day of school this year for their children.  As many of you are well aware, I don't have many fond memories relating to my own childhood.

The first day of a new school year is no exception.

I was 7 in this photo. It's the only photo of me that exists between the ages of 3 and 11.

On the first day of school at our house, there was no fanfare, no nice new clothes, no hearty breakfast, and no fancy packed lunch with a note inside.

My mom usually sent us on our way with a threat "you better get your ass out of this house! If you're late on the first day, there's gonna be hell to pay when you get home!"  Of course she could only threaten us, if she was actually there to say it.  On more than one occasion, she wasn't. First day of school and mom is missing in action.

So I'd leave the house with my county welfare supplied "lunch ticket" safely tucked into my "new" jeans.  They weren't usually exactly new, but they were new to me. They usually came from the thrift store, or from some generous local family.  Of course these jeans, "had better last all year," so my mom sewed double patches into the inside of the knees. 

I know most kids have a lot of questions and what-ifs before the first day. My "what-ifs" were usually a little bit different than most kids. Mine consisted of things like "what if someone makes fun of my clothes?" "What if someone comments on my "welfare lunch?" "What if someone makes fun of how poor my family is?" "What if someone calls me white trash?"

It wasn't really a matter of "what if," it was a matter of who and when.  My quandary was usually related to whether I would try to kick their ass during school, after school, or wait until I saw them away from school?

.

27 comments:

Georgina Dollface said...

A very poignant reminder that the first day of school was always the most wonderful time of the year. There's so much emphasis on new this and new that, I can imagine that this could be a really crappy time of year for some families. Thanks for sharing. - G

Brian said...

It sure doesn't sound like a whole lot of pleasant memories. I hope there were some experiences that you wouldn't trade for anything somewhere along those times.

Joe Cap said...

Is that a rifle in your hands? I know you got bullied bit in school...
Lock and load!

KarenG said...

Well that little boy in the picture is adorable, yet tough, and I'll bet that all the girls in his second grade class were in love with him.

Copyboy said...

It's amazing you are who you are from where you came from. But I guess that's the kind of stuff that makes us stronger. BTW...I think you would've kicked my ass if we went to school together OR we could've been drinking buddies. A total toss up. haha

Lynne H. said...

And I would have been the little girl to befriend you and help give those wise-acre kids a black eye..

Bossy Betty said...

You could have sat at my lunch table, Patrick.

Clarissa Draper said...

Your picture is wonderful. I loved school and always looked forward to my first day of school. Thanks for the look back.

CD

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Dude, that's terrible!

Brenda's Arizona said...

Pat, great take on the What Ifs...
Never thought of it as you mentioned!
Photo is a keeper, too.

Talli Roland said...

This makes my heart ache, Pat. A reminder that not all kids are excited about the first day of school.

Margaret Benbow said...

Pat, in the photo you look confident and strong--and that's probably the way others saw you. Especially since you weren't planning to run and hide if somebody insulted you, you were strategically plotting the best way to make them suffer like dogs if they did. Maybe you didn't know you were a brave, tough kid--but that's what you were.

DrSoosie said...

Once again a snippet from your childhood memories make me feel sad for all you never had...things I believe are the right of every child. To feel shame instead of hope and excitement on the first day of school is just so disheartening. I hope when you had your own children you made the first day of school a special event for them. It is through our own children we can relive some of the 'wrong" experiences of our lives and try to do them again "right."

Marlene said...

You know what amazes me, Mr. Pat? You're obviously a very intelligent man and you write well. You've done well for yourself and have a beautiful family.

Despite what sounds like a really CRAPPY childhood (and maybe that term isn't even strong enough) - you're proof that even those living in extreme conditions can rise above and come out on top.

I know I'm probably younger than you are....and have certainly had maybe a FRACTION of your life experiences....but let me say this: I AM proud of you.

John McElveen said...

Pat-- All those what if's sure turned you into one Helluva man!!!

The Proud to know Pat Tillet Club!

John

Sarah said...

Like some of the others have said, this makes my heart ache. Thank you for sharing.

Postman said...

I think the only thing I can say that wouldn't appear callous, sanctimonious, or heartless is to assure you that I was NEVER one of those kids who made fun of others' clothes. Mine were plenty weird by themselves, no matter if they'd come from a thrift store (which some did) or not. Camouflage jacket and top hat was my preferred outfit.

Cheeseboy said...

Someone (probably you) really should write your history of childhood. The more I read, the more I strangely want to learn more. This story is no exception.

SquirrelQueen said...

I went to small school in a very small town and there were a few kids who, looking back on things now, probably had childhoods somewhat similar to yours.

I never heard anyone make fun of the way someone dressed or looked. We were all farm kids and we stuck together and took care of our friends. If mom wasn't "feeling good" a sleep over could be quickly arranged. Wish you could have lived in a town like that.

Anthony J Langford said...

Cheers for sharing Pat.

Sorry to hear about your tough days. I know there were many.

It is a good photo though. So begs a few questions. Who is in the background?

What is in your hands?

Who took the photo?

Cheers mate. You did ok in the end.

=]

Jerry said...

...but then I was too worried about how others perceived me to even care about others.

Georgina Dollface said...

"was" in my comment is supposed to be "wasn't". D'oh. Hope you didn't think I was a callous doorknob. - G

pitchertaker said...

First day of school for me, even as I approach my 75th year, is new faces, and returning faces. I have for the past 11 years taught an introduction to photo course that is all about the traditions of using film and making prints in the darkroom. They are all new faces to me, and I find it enormous fun and satisfaction to show these people what photography has been essentially for the past 175 years. There is still magic in watching your first print come up in a tray of developer. And at the same time, I find it exciting to awaken the possibilities of the new medium of digital to people I have known in previous classes. I love teaching, but the one sad part is to see my student leave upon graduation. A young woman came by just yesterday to say goodbye after having spent five years at our university and finishing her fifth year masters program. We had a long tearful hug. In the later years of our photography program, she not only served as a helper and lab monitor for me, but held the post as editor of the totally student produced STIR magazine. She's off to Norway for a PhD program, I will surely miss her and remember her fondly. But this coming Monday I have a whole new group of faces eager to get their hands wet in the darkroom, and a whole new group eager to learn what pixels are all about. The only comment I can think of that kinda' fits to this process of goodbye and hello is onward. There is little other choice.

One Woman's Thoughts said...

It seems that most of us didn't grow up in that Hallmark movie that everyone likes to think
exists out there.
Your hardships as a child make you the writer that you are. You write from the heart with emotions that have left footprints on your soul. Thank you for sharing. I can see the more we get to know you the more we appreciate you as a deep and caring man. may your future experiences give you the kind of memories that allow to to look back at and smile.
And oh, you are a pretty cute looking little guy in that photo.

Ree said...

...which shows we are so much more than the clothes we wear, though kids have a hard time knowing that. Thanks for the story and God bless you!

Pat Tillett said...

Georgina - The schools try to get away from all that by instituting a uniform requirement. But there are kids who buy their them from Macy's and those who buy them from Walmart...the economic difference is still very visible...

Brian - There are a few pleasant memories from my childhood. Very few...

Joe - It is indeed a rifle. My grandma gave it to me at 7. Good thing I wasn't bullied much, I might have used it on them...

KerenG - Thanks! Yup, in my family and world, you had to be tough.

Copyboy - Probably the second one. I never beat anybody up that didn't deserve it.

Lynne - Thanks Lynne! You could blacken one eye and I'd do the other...

BB - Why thank you! I'd have taken you up on your offer...

Clarissa - you are welcome! Happy to be of service...thanks

Alex - Not one of my favorite days of the year. Summer vacation was my time...

Brenda - Thanks Brenda! Thank goodness my mom made me start working by seventh grade and could buy my own clothes.

Talli - Thanks Talli. Whenever I took my kids to school on their first day, I always looked around to see if there kids going through what I did.

Margaret - I may have been poor and abused, but I wasn't anybody's pushover, that's for sure. I'm so glad that none of our kids had any first days of school like I did. Thanks Margaret, I appreciate the nice words.

DrSoosie - Our kids grew up in a different world. I'm not saying it was perfect, but none of them ever had to go to school without fitting in. Unless they chose to do so...LOL

Marlene - Thanks so much for the nice words. You've read quite a few of my childhood stories, some of the most terrible things are still waiting to be written. It's been a long and hard to trip to get where I am now. More hours in therapy than I can remember. Again, thanks so much...

John - Thanks John! I'm pretty proud and happy to be here. I've done a lot of things that I'm not proud of, but it was all part of the journey...

Sarah - Thanks for reading and feeling my story Sarah.

Postman - You know, despite what happened to me, I also, was never one of those kids who made fun of others. As time went on, I realized that I really didn't want to fit in with many of them. I just wish it could have been a decision of my own choosing. Maybe I'd have worn a top hat also...

Cheeseboy - thanks! I'm using this blog to get all of the stories out of my head and off my notes, then maybe a something more formal. If you like reading these things there are many more under the appropriate labels on my side bar. Thanks for reading and commenting.

SQ - How nice that people would take care of each other. No chance of that ever happening to us. People were generally afraid of my family. thanks, I also wish I'd grown up in a town like that...

Anthony - My pleasure! The lady is my grandmother and the guy is my "step-grandad" I love my granny to death, but the guy not so much. He taught me a lot of country ways, but he was involved in one of the most traumatice incidents of my life.
http://patricktillett.blogspot.com/2009/07/rifle-rabbits-55-chevrolet-and-me.html

Jerry - I was usually way beyond worrying about it. I went into survival mode and was ready to explode at any given moment.

Georgina - LOL....I thought nothing of the kind!

pitchertaker - Great story! You are so right, there is no other choice but onward...

OWT - Thanks! Yes, all of those things have left an imprint on everything I do. I don't dwell on them, I'm not unhappy about them, but they are there. Always...
Thanks for the compliment also. I did look kinda cute. I wonder where all that blonde hair went?
thanks again...

Ree - Thanks Ree! Same to you...
I never judged, but I always hated those that did...

Pat Tillett said...

Georgina - The schools try to get away from all that by instituting a uniform requirement. But there are kids who buy their them from Macy's and those who buy them from Walmart...the economic difference is still very visible...

Brian - There are a few pleasant memories from my childhood. Very few...

Joe - It is indeed a rifle. My grandma gave it to me at 7. Good thing I wasn't bullied much, I might have used it on them...

KerenG - Thanks! Yup, in my family and world, you had to be tough.

Copyboy - Probably the second one. I never beat anybody up that didn't deserve it.

Lynne - Thanks Lynne! You could blacken one eye and I'd do the other...

BB - Why thank you! I'd have taken you up on your offer...

Clarissa - you are welcome! Happy to be of service...thanks

Alex - Not one of my favorite days of the year. Summer vacation was my time...

Brenda - Thanks Brenda! Thank goodness my mom made me start working by seventh grade and could buy my own clothes.

Talli - Thanks Talli. Whenever I took my kids to school on their first day, I always looked around to see if there kids going through what I did.

Margaret - I may have been poor and abused, but I wasn't anybody's pushover, that's for sure. I'm so glad that none of our kids had any first days of school like I did. Thanks Margaret, I appreciate the nice words.

DrSoosie - Our kids grew up in a different world. I'm not saying it was perfect, but none of them ever had to go to school without fitting in. Unless they chose to do so...LOL

Marlene - Thanks so much for the nice words. You've read quite a few of my childhood stories, some of the most terrible things are still waiting to be written. It's been a long and hard to trip to get where I am now. More hours in therapy than I can remember. Again, thanks so much...

John - Thanks John! I'm pretty proud and happy to be here. I've done a lot of things that I'm not proud of, but it was all part of the journey...

Sarah - Thanks for reading and feeling my story Sarah.

Postman - You know, despite what happened to me, I also, was never one of those kids who made fun of others. As time went on, I realized that I really didn't want to fit in with many of them. I just wish it could have been a decision of my own choosing. Maybe I'd have worn a top hat also...

Cheeseboy - thanks! I'm using this blog to get all of the stories out of my head and off my notes, then maybe a something more formal. If you like reading these things there are many more under the appropriate labels on my side bar. Thanks for reading and commenting.

SQ - How nice that people would take care of each other. No chance of that ever happening to us. People were generally afraid of my family. thanks, I also wish I'd grown up in a town like that...

Anthony - My pleasure! The lady is my grandmother and the guy is my "step-grandad" I love my granny to death, but the guy not so much. He taught me a lot of country ways, but he was involved in one of the most traumatice incidents of my life.
http://patricktillett.blogspot.com/2009/07/rifle-rabbits-55-chevrolet-and-me.html

Jerry - I was usually way beyond worrying about it. I went into survival mode and was ready to explode at any given moment.

Georgina - LOL....I thought nothing of the kind!

pitchertaker - Great story! You are so right, there is no other choice but onward...

OWT - Thanks! Yes, all of those things have left an imprint on everything I do. I don't dwell on them, I'm not unhappy about them, but they are there. Always...
Thanks for the compliment also. I did look kinda cute. I wonder where all that blonde hair went?
thanks again...

Ree - Thanks Ree! Same to you...
I never judged, but I always hated those that did...