One of the “smart” kids, Stephanie Kim
seemed to always be first at everything.
Long-division, spelling or basketball;
she was also first to get a pimply-face,
and was the very first girl in the entire 5th grade
to wear a real, live bra.
One day, when Billy was being especially dumb,
(pulling his eyes like this with both his thumbs) -
he chanted, “My mother is Chinese,
my father is Japanese,
and look what happened to me!”
Stephanie, hardly giving him the time of day,
said without emotion, “Hey, stupid,
I’m Korean, O.K.?”
We considered it pretty amusing
how she shut him down that way.
But then, when the boys began to tease
and slither around
making comments from the sides of their mouths,
so totally fascinated with her chest -
every last one of us seemed powerless
to help poor Stephanie out.
At long last, maybe three weeks or so,
she just broke-down
and cried and cried and cried ~ alone.
* Though not readily broached in public conversation as adults, ask anyone directly - man or woman, and they will all have something to say about the growing-up ‘changes’ undeniably evident beginning about 5th and 6th grade. As natural biology was happening to little girls, little boys (though mostly uninvited) were automatically a vital part of that incredibly important and often traumatic brief moment in time when the whole world seemed to focus on the introduction of new underwear.
How we survived it all is truly a golden question.
frightened us with the dark brown scar
exactly below his right eye
(a bullet wound from the war).
His classroom discipline not far
from military ethics it seemed,
as we kept score
of his many offenses against us:
the quick temper,
the moral speeches ~
as we listened, unblinking,
willing breezes to drift mercifully
over the window sash
and save us
from the heat of his passion.
Until one day, he did something good.
He just canceled arithmetic
and spoke to us point-blank
(this bachelor fifth-grade teacher),
in simple words we all understood
he explained the beauty of nature
creating great changes within
making us so different
from girls to women,
and boys to men ~
eloquently conquering at last
the relentless enemy sniping
of young boys who saw
that Aviva Lee
wore a bra.
* Only six years after the introduction of the birth control pill and two years after The Beatles' shocking debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1966 supposedly found us in the early convulsions of the American sexual revolution. About three years later one of my cousins would join a hippie commune and my brother would be longing to experience the music at
Oblivious to the technical details of aggressive cultural change, we kids were up to our necks in the daily dance of growing-up. Reserved and dutiful conformists within the classroom (subversive “pencil-drops” were still a few years away); we struggled to both assert and protect ourselves outside on the playground. The battle of the sexes was an old and sacred theme; boys vs. girls contests from spelling bees to foot races to playing cigarette tag were a relished and necessary practice in the constant attempt to keep everyone in their place.
Puberty interrupted all of that. It was especially confusing when the “early-bloomers” among our feminine ranks began to exhibit – however unwillingly – the most disturbing social change of all. We girls who were not as yet so affected were as uncomfortable with the prospect as the boys were, except their focus was decidedly of a much baser nature. We loathed them for it, but at the same time we seemed incapable of defending one of our own. It was a shameful reality in the ultimate disruption to a childhood on the brink of extinction. We were afraid.
About 30 years later, I encountered the Aycock name again on a patient chart at the
**class pictures are representative only
* from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner