onsdag 22 februari 2017

Schooldays - the first years

There is a website called Stay Friends. 
It is a site where you can find your old school and your old schoolmates and classmates. Pictures, then and now, comments and memories from "those happy days". Or in some cases, "nightmare days".
There is a catch though, you have to pay if you want to see the pictures and full profiles. 

I know I have pictures from all my grades, but where?? Some old classmates appear on Facebook, so that you can see the change, how old and grey some of them look, but I look just the same of course.....
I never was in the popular gang. Never. I had good grades, was polite and well behaved. In Sweden we start school at the age of seven, that is compulsory but you can also start at six.
Compulsory school is nine years, but when my mother went to school most people left school after seven years, to start working.  You had to be a talented student and have parents with some money, if you should continue. 
My mother was talented but money was scarce, so at 15 she was working full time, just like many others. Imagine that!   That is still a very cold and clear reality in many countries, only for some children there is no school at all. If the choice is between making ends meet and feed the entire family, or let one child continue in school, the choice is easy. Or neccesary.

The other day I found a friend from my earliest childhood, he lived in the next house, we used to play all day long, roaming the neighbourhood for adventures. We were about 4 when we started.  His name is Jan-Erik. Kind boy. Good photographer nowadays. When school started, I had moved and after a couple of years we called it a day. After the first three years we were to change school and he stayed on and I didn't. It was a terrible place that school.

The first school was right across the backyard. It was grade 1-3, and half of the schoolbuilding was a special school for children with developmental disabilities like Downs syndrom. We didn't interact with them, they had recess on slightly different hours but we often met. 
Most of our teachers were on the older scale, but some were young and pretty. This was 1970
and the swedish government had decided school to be nonconfessional. That meant no morning prayer f.i and no special focus on teaching christian faith. My teacher didn't really care about that, she played the organ every morning and taught us hymns and everything about the holy land. In 2nd grade we got our first bible. At the end of the autumn semester, we went to church for the christmas play. Everyone wanted to be virgin Mary.  Just as every girl wanted to be Lucia. I was never any of those.

I spent most of my schooldays alone in the schoolyard. Sometimes the teachers would come out and say something about playing together and then I would be admitted in to the typical schoolyard games and rope skipping. I lived alone with my mother and never had the right clothes. But I was chosen prefect and schoolpolice , the latter a child dressed in a yellow vest, standing by the crossings, holding out my arms to stop the smaller children from crossing when the cars rushed by. Oh yes. We got gifts and headmaster would hold a little party for us. I was rather good with puppets, so I made up a play about being careful in the traffic, you know, look left, right and listen, use helmet with the bike, use reflexes in the dark.
I was a good reader too, so once or twice some teacher had me read to the 1st grades when there was some emergency.
All of that did nothing at all to make me popular, quite the opposite, actually.

Across the schoolyard was a rather large building, holding the loos , the gymnasium and the cantine. The toilets had no doors, just some kind of hatch. The lockerroom was like the Dungeons, you had to stand naked in front of people who really despiced you!!  Ugh. And we kept our gym clothes in a locker, after five months they had an odour that could kill a horse.
Girls had pink, red or blue little dresses with fringes, and some special socks with plastic soles in matching colour. The teacher was the same as in every other topic, she never changed clothes, but jumped around in her skirt and blouse. 

In Sweden, school is free of charge, if you choose a private school, your community still has to pay for you, that wasn't always the case when I grew up. We had a cooked meal every day and mercy on the child that threw any food!!! So we courtsied and shouted; thank you for dinner! and skipped out. For many children then, and now, that meal is the only hot meal they get the entire day.
We sat in benches, two and two, with lids on them. Books where to be wrapped in covers, neatly, and then you would paste a label with your name and grade. Mostly you would unwrap them and give them back for next generation to use. Every pupil got one set of crayons and two pencils . In my class I was the only one with a single parent. It was a very neat and tidy neighbourhood and the other parents wispered behind our backs about my mother, single, attractive and very social and bright. When she lost her job some years later, the wispers stopped and people started to comment loudly. The neighbourhood started to change, violence and booze came in, the houses switched landlord and started to decay. 

I loved my school because of the nice and loving teachers. I could read when I started, thanks to my cousins comicbooks. But I learned so much and I still have some of my writing books and one of the gifts - a brown piggy bank. We were about 20 pupils, and two girls in the class were my friends, Regina and Liselotte. Liselotte was popular because her father was a professional magician, imagine the parties! She took over his acts and went on tour when she grew up.
Regina moved to Iceland where she still lives with her family, we keep in touch via FB.
One nice boy was Henrik, he loved dinosaurs. And Kerstin, a blond, pale and fragile little girl that every boy was in love with. Yes, some I remember well. 

School had plenty of resources so there was plenty of excursions and theaters and such. And you brought your own lunchbag, that was exciting. You had to bring pancakes and my mother was no cook but she did her best. To drink everybody had stilldrinks, at the time they had the shape of small pyramids, very unpractical.  When you had entered the straw you couldn't squeeze it.  We went by bus to see the famous castles in the south of Sweden.

In higher grades we also took to the far off forests for orientation or how to get totally lost and wet during schoolhours. Those where the days!!
During those first years in school, our king died. I remember it well, they fired the canons in the courtyard in Stockholm. He loved archeology that king, a kind and silvery haired man.
Oh yes, one more thing, the Fluorine lady. Every week she appeared with a tray filled with little plastic cups. Every child was to gurgle around with fluorine to get strong teeth. Mine didn't get strong, I had six cavities already on my first dentist visit. Bad genes I say.

It was in that schoolyard also, that I had my first serious allergic reaction. I only know that I started to feel dizzy, started to sneeze and lost my eyesight and finally my lipmovements. I probably looked like a monster, causing all kinds of amused reactions.
Another time that I caused a riot was when I got on the wrong note with Bo, and he kicked his wooden slipper right in my forehead, causing a flood of blood and a scar that I still charish. He didn't mean the slipper to skip off, it just did.   
And so, when the french boy had started in our school, Francois, my first foreigner, the third and last year ended and I faced that dark shadow of a school, some blocks away. If I had a hard time in that small school I was leaving, what would that gigantic school be?  That's another story.
The piggybank, the comicbooks that got me reading, and the 2nd grade compulsory flute!!!

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