One of the prompts at Writer’s Workshop was to write about a time you pretended to be someone else. I don’t do that, but immediately my mind went back to another one of my life stories, all the way back to second grade at Lincoln Elementary.
I had attended Huff Elementary for first grade and part of second, but then we moved across town. All of a sudden I was the “new girl.” Some schools embrace the idea of a new kid and everyone wants to be the first one to hang with the newbie. Not so at my school. Even in second grade, there were already cliques, and strangers were not welcome.
Added to my misery was also the fact that just as I started school I had a flare up of eczema on my hands. Not cool for playing “Red Rover,” and all the other games we played at recess. No one wanted to hold my hand!
It was already cold weather when I changed schools. As kids do, I had outgrown my winter coat, so my mom bought me a new parka. Back then, it was popular to get a “reversible” coat. Mine was black on one side and a black and white flowered print on the other.
As some of my readers may remember, I was enamored with the idea of being a spy when I was a kid. The reversible jacket gave me the idea of having a new identity. I could be Jerralea when wearing the black side. I could be Jerralea’s twin when wearing the flowered side. I named my “twin” Juanita because I wanted to be like my aunt Juanita, who was one of the most glamorous women I knew.
I tried out my new identity the next day at school. I went to school just waiting for somebody to speak to me before class. Sure enough, Toby said hi to me as I walked up in the school yard.
“Oh,” I said airily, “I’m not Jerralea. I’m her twin sister, Juanita.”
“No you’re not. You look just like her.”
“That’s why we’re twins. We are identical twins. Jerralea wears a black coat.”
“How come I never see you both in class, then?”
“Because I’m in the other second grade class, Miss Schultz’ class.”
Just then the bell rang and we both went to Miss Siebert’s class. At recess, Toby came up to me and said, “See you are not Juanita. You said you were in Miss Schultz class but you came in Miss Siebert’s class with me and when she called Jerralea’s name, you answered.”
Thinking fast, I replied, “Silly, we are playing a trick on our teachers. I am pretending to be Jerralea and she is pretending to be me.”
“Uh-huh,” he said, not looking very convinced.
“Well, see ya, I told Lucille I wanted to jump rope with her,” I yelled over my shoulder as I beat a hasty retreat. (Likely story, Lucille wouldn’t have anything to do with me.)
The next day, I wore the black side of my jacket to school. Toby yelled from across the playground, “Hey Juaneeeta!”
I ignored him.
He yelled at me again.
I whirled around and said, “I’m not Juanita, I’m Jerralea.”
He came running up to me and breathlessly whispered, “Sorry, I forgot – black coat means you’re Jerralea.”
Wow, I really had him convinced!
Then he started laughing hysterically. Pretty soon everyone wanted to know what was so funny. Pointing at me, he said, loud enough to wake the dead, “This crazy girl keeps trying to convince me she has a twin sister named Juanita, and the only difference between them is a reversible coat!”
Snobby Linda, world’s biggest flirt, came up and said, “I can prove that she is Jerralea.” Before I could protest, she grabbed my arm and held it up. “See, her hand has the creeping crud, that’s how I know it’s Jerralea.”
Everyone started laughing, and then, they sang that hated chorus,
“Winners, win up with Malto-Meal. Jerralea Winn is a Malto-Meal eater.”
I don’t know why I hated that so much. There were much worse things than to be accused of than eating hot cereal!
Looking back, I can see that people made fun of me and treated me like an outcast.
If it were in today’s world, I would have came to school with a gun and tried to shoot everybody!
But in the sixties you just sucked it up and acted like it didn’t matter. By the time I was in third grade, my eczema dried up, and everyone forgot about Jerralea, Juanita and the Reversible Coat. I became good friends with Lucille and Toby and all the other kids.
Except for Snobby Linda.
I'm linking up at Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop today.