I keep dropping my crayons on the floor. On purpose. The boy sitting next to me doesn't notice and I'm glad. It gives me more time and privacy to cry under my desk. I pretend to look for and pick up the fallen crayons, quietly crying and wiping away tears.
It's my first day at a new school. I'm six years old. We moved 50-ish miles south to a new home and I'm the new kid making my appearance in this new first grade class halfway through the year.
My mom and step-dad are with me, helping me carry supplies to my classroom. My teacher says hello and introduces me to the class. Just what every quiet, introverted kid wants - attention. Not. I wave halfheartedly, not making eye contact with anyone. The teacher shows me to my desk and my mom helps me put everything away.
The minutes fly by like seconds and then she tells me goodbye. She and my step-dad wave, smile, and leave. I stare after them, feeling the tears filling my eyes. I lean down and "fix" my shoe, not wanting anyone to see me tear up. After all, big girls don't cry.
I swallow, hard, trying to keep everything inside and not let my panic show. I don't know these kids. I don't know this teacher. I don't like this school with its weird open floor plan. There aren't any doors or walls between classrooms, just partitions. I want to go back to my old school with the giant library and the librarian with the kind, patient smile. I want my old routine. More than that, I just want to go home.
The teacher announces that we'll be listening to a story and then drawing a picture about it. I sit up and accidentally make eye contact with her. I can't tell if she knows I've been crying, but now it's all I can think about. I drop my brand new box of crayons on the floor. Leaning over to pick them up takes only a second, not enough time to hide and cry some more. I decide to open the top of the box this time, hoping that the crayons will scatter the next time I drop it. I do and they do.
I listen to the story, only half paying attention. I'm mad at myself, mentally calling myself a crybaby and telling myself to shut up. Slowly picking up one crayon at a time. Red - stop crying. Blue - stop crying. Green - stop crying. I notice a pair of shoes next to me. The shoes have feet in them and long legs. I slowly sit up and see my teacher standing next to me.
She's done reading now and I can't look at her, afraid that I might be in trouble. She asks the class to draw a picture about our favorite part of the story. In the commotion of students talking and grabbing their supplies, she leans over to me and says quietly, "It's OK, sweetie. I know it's hard to start over someplace new. But you'll be fine. I promise." And she pats me on the shoulder and walks away.
I tear up again, only this time in gratitude. I never want to be seen. But she saw me and she was kind. I still want to go home, but I think maybe I can draw for a little bit and it'll be OK. I look at my crayons and see that the box is a little crumpled, but the crayons themselves are unharmed.
Kind of like me.