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The winds of change blow gently

Food For Thought

Eleanor and I talked about just about everything on those slow walks home from school. Even though it was only three blocks from school to her house, it could take us as long as a half hour, as we sometimes became so absorbed in what we were talking about we stopped walking and poured all our attention into the subject at hand. We compared likes and dislikes, attitudes and opinions. She thought she might join the Girl Scouts. I didn’t like the idea of uniforms and regular meetings and having to fill a bunch of requirements to earn a little badge to sew on my uniform. I thought the Girl Scout uniforms were ugly, they looked too much like the Army. My idea of a great organization was Rainbow Girls. My older sister belonged to Rainbow Girls and she got to wear a long pink formal gown and wear a carnation on her shoulder at the meetings. I didn’t know what they did at the meetings but I was pretty sure it didn’t involve campfires and selling cookies door-to-door.
We also decided we were very much alike– almost twins, in fact. Didn’t we both have little sisters named Betty, who were just two years behind us in school? (Never mind her sister was named Elizabeth and mine was Betty Lou.) We were the same height and weighed the same– her weight was partly metal leg brace, mine all chubby me. Why, we were so much alike we could change clothes and fool anybody. We tried out this theory one day by switching dresses, going downstairs where I said, “Hi Mom,” to her mother and Eleanor murmured a polite, “Hello, Mrs. Miller.”
“Well, good afternoon, girls,” her mother replied, not looking up from her book. So much for our theory of impenetrable disguises.
We both felt teachers were grossly undemocratic in handing out favors and privileges. Why was it always somebody else who got to hand out the new Weekly Readers, collect the test papers and take them to the teacher’s desk, deliver an important note to the principal’s office, pass out cupcakes at the Christmas party, wash the blackboard, or distribute the Valentines in February? We hatched a plot to make sure we got our share of the spotlight. We wrote a Valentine Day Play, convinced our mothers to make us costumes for the performance, obtained permission from the teacher to give our performance at the beginning of the party, and more or less bulldozed our way through a rather senseless script to the important lines that announced, “And now it’s time for us to hand out the Valentines.” The teacher, once she recovered from her astonishment, thanked us for our performance and tactfully suggested we enjoy the rest of the party and let someone else finish the job.
I guess our biggest fiasco was one lovely spring day when school must have seemed endlessly long and tedious. It was a warm day and we were unencumbered by sweaters or papers to take home. We tripped happily down the front steps of the school and turned down the sidewalk toward Eleanor’s house. There were a number of students climbing on the jungle gym, they waved and shouted at us as we walked past.
“You know you’re not supposed to play on the playground after school,” we called righteously, continuing on our way. We arrived at her house, heading for the kitchen where there was usually a pitcher of Kool-Aid waiting. We were planning to lie on the carpet in the living room and read aloud from her newest comic book with Donald Duck’s Uncle Scrooge pushing his piles of gold coins around with a bulldozer. As Eleanor pulled a couple glasses from the cupboard, her mother came into the kitchen.
“I didn’t know they were letting school out early today,” she said, looking pointedly at the kitchen clock.
We both looked at the clock, then at each other. I had a mental image of the kids waving and shouting from the jungle gym, we bolted for the front door. We made it up the front steps just as the last of our classmates was taking his seat in the classroom. I’m still amazed at how fast Eleanor could run, even with that heavy leg brace.
At the time, I was unaware of how much my life could be changed by such a seemingly simple thing as moving three blocks in the other direction from the school. And, I doubt my parents realized fulfilling their dream of having an acreage would affect us girls to the extent it did. After all, we’d be living in the same part of town and going to the same school. Activities and friendships couldn’t be affected too much by such a minor relocation. Or could it?