“Know Yourself; One Dash of Life at a Time!”
It is the dreaded time of the day for me, yes lunchtime. I am in the third grade; I love learning and I enjoy school as long as I am in the classroom: thinking, reading, writing, quizzes, math, raising my hand and answering questions…. just learning. The books are my hiding place in this big world that I do not seem to fit in. I prefer to be someplace else other than here. Even though I am the youngest of six children born in a home with a father and mother who loved me dearly, inwardly I am a loner yet never felt alone, but I just did not belong. The unlimited distance in the sky as far as my eye could see with no end in sight, was a desirable place I longed to be, above the fluffy clouds that appeared so peaceful and kind. I can see clearly now. Looking up, I talked to the higher power even as a child, learning later that this way of communication is called praying!
My parents had two generational and economical sets of children that I will identify as three older and three younger. The three older were born when jobs were plentiful and my older siblings said daddy always wanted them to have what he considered the best; they remember indulging in the better quality of things that life offered. That was a foreign language to the younger three, with me being the last child born, dethroning my sister from the status of baby. My mom often spoke of Hoover Days and I had no idea what she was talking about. I did know that I never had lunch money for school, and I did not know why. By the way, I was a timid, withdrawn, very low self esteemed child, and I did not talk unless I was spoken to; however, I was so excited about learning and learned to read before entering the first grade. To my awareness, day care centers did not exist when I was a child. My sister, who was 2 years older than me, taught me everything she learned in school before I entered first grade. She was my protector and the one I cried out to during my times of fear; I was literally afraid of everything, everyone and literally my own shadow. My sister was opposite of me and was a real bully. Well, back to Hoover Days that I discovered, as an adult, to be a season of great depression when unprecedented unemployment was at an all-time high, banks collapsed and the majority of Americans experienced the pain; sounds familiar, “huh.”
My third grade experiences were many years after Hoover Days, yet the experience of them were indelibly etched in my mom’s memory. My mom was reminded of those days when my dad was released from his job while I was a third grader. This was a time when money was not plentiful in our house, as was in the youthful years of my three older siblings. The struggle was on for bills being passed due; the younger siblings experienced the reality of not having the best as was the memorable word of my older siblings. My daily and awful cafeteria experiences of not having lunch money was a secret, especially to my family, that I kept to myself until I became an adult. My brother and sister’s lunchtime at school was different from mine.
Unless I was sick, I went to school everyday wishing I could disappear, only at lunchtime. My classmates and I, in an orderly single file, walked down the right side of the high ceiling hallway to the restrooms to wash our little hands before entering the large cafeteria room that served as a multipurpose site for large assembling. Order was regimented in my youthful days of learning; entering the cafeteria, still single filed, along with our teacher, we walked to the right proceeding to form the shape of a horseshoe, to reach the stacked food trays used to place our food upon. About fifteen brown chairs were lined up against the right wall and stopped at the first curve formed by the little bodies that made a horseshoe shape recasting into a straight line until all bodies lined up beside the left wall. Each child without lunch money, obediently dropped out of the line and sat in the brown chairs, watching their teacher and classmates eat lunch for the longest thirty minutes of my daily Monday through Friday life at school.
We not only entered the cafeteria in a single file, but alphabetically by the first letter of our last name. My last name began with the letter “B,” therefore I dropped out of the line before most of my classmates and sat in one brown chair of my choice. At this point, in my mind, I became blindly invisible with opened eyes, losing sight of peer passersby, whose last name began with letters that came after the letter “B.” I sat alone most days unless one other girl, whose name I will not reveal, would join me. Her brown chair attendance was not constant, therefore most days, I was the brown chair’s lone ranger. It wasn’t that I wanted to eat as was the humiliation of sitting in the brown chairs everyday, with an inevitable dread of being powerless as a child, to do anything about my economic situation, that realistically left me without lunch money. Reflecting more, lunch was only $.20 per day which equaled $1.00 per week; what would have happened if I had shared my secret with one family member, but I did not talk unless it was necessary while in class. I literally started to “believe that eating was not necessary;” unbeknown to my family or siblings because I did not tell them that I went without eating during the day on a daily basis. Living with this secret belief, over the years, led to many life threatening ICU illnesses. My immune system was only strong enough to identify germs, but not strong enough to destroy or fight them off. My doctors and family identify me as a walking, breathing, talking miracle and I know that I am! This repeated act of not eating each day at school is identified as childhood trauma that has had lasting adverse effects on my physical and emotional well-being, to date. God is so good and HE has taught me how to consciously manage consequences of childhood trauma in my life.
My mom cooked everyday, but for whatever reason I just do not remember breakfast. Upon my arrival home from school, I ate just enough to sustain life to live another dreaded day of sitting in the brown chairs. To this day, I do not get hungry and still believe I do not have to eat; yet I know eating is essential to live. My body has proven me wrong after many death-door experiences, due to illnesses as a result of not eating. It took me forever to reach a hundred pounds in weight. It is a FACT that we must practice healthy eating to enhance a healthier lifestyle. My third-grade weekends came slowly on a weekly basis, and each Monday quickly revealed itself, with me in the excitement of returning to school to learn accompanied with the deep, deep dread of lunchtime. Stay tuned; I can see clearly now! There is more to share during a happy time of learning before and after becoming invisible each day, while seated in one of the brown chairs. I do not invite anyone to ever have a seat in, not one of the brown chairs. That seat in life was outrightly reserved just for me; even though the rain is not gone, I can see clearly now! That little girl occupant of the cafeteria brown chair still lives inside, and invites herself with times of least expected visits, filled with so much pain that releases uncontrollable crocodile tears of flowing rain! I can see clearly now!
Be aware that the FYSB– Family and Youth Services Bureau; ACE– Adverse Childhood Experiences clearly defines trauma as resulting from experiences that cause intense physical and psychological stress reactions. Further defined, trauma is something that results from and specifically an event, series of events or set of circumstances that have lasting, adverse effects on an individual’s physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Trauma can result from physical, psychological, sexual abuse, neglect, family violence, grief from the death of a loved one or other loss, a natural disaster, pandemic, or war, or other emotional experiences. No one is exempt as trauma has no respect for any age, gender, race, ethnicity, geography or socioeconomic status. Some of all of the above are what many of us can attest to as the result of firsthand, childhood experiences in life.
Empathy is one open-minded solution that aids me in being of service to others. I challenge you to Anchor Up! and visit our user-friendly website that provides an application slot for YOUTH enrollment in the Fish Out of Water, Inc. Anchors Up! Program. The aim of the program is to produce healthy and productive YOUTH of the future by promoting the social and emotional well being necessary for YOUTH to achieve academic success of becoming economically viable citizens in today’s society! www.fo2w.org
Nancy L. Blue
Anchors Up! Coach
School, Community & Faith Based Engagement Coordinator
FYSB– Family and Youth Services Bureau
ACE– Adverse Childhood Experiences
CSS– Creating Safe Spaces