I never liked school, and this goes back to the beginning. When my mother put me in a nursery practically right next door to our home on the west bank of the Chao Phraya, I hated it from the first day.
I wasn’t even quite three, but because my parents and grandparents seemed to think I was more mature and smarter than other children my own age- plus, they didn’t want me running around all day long around the property- there I was: the youngest child in the nursery next door.
I remember screaming for my mother, grandmother, and the nanny to come back for me. My nanny started crying, too, but that stopped immediately when my grandmother scolded her.
As soon as they were out of sight I stopped my crying- not because I was faking, though, but because I suddenly noticed my surroundings: I saw a bunch of children my size, all with their hands on the fence and doing the same thing– wailing.
They lined up from the right side of the wooden gate, which stretched all the way to the tall coconut trees on the other side of the school’s property line, all the way to the left. – In order to tell the right from the left, I had to look for the two moles on my wrist and the side of my hand. The hand with the moles indicated the right side. The fence was long, and every spot was taken by a child crying for her or his parent.
While they were all wailing with their mouths wide open, I saw the insides of their mouths. Some had funny teeth, but most had saliva dripping down onto their chins, and gooey snot running out their noses.
I quickly touched my face for saliva and nasal mucus and reached inside each nostril with my small finger, just to be sure. Nope, nothing there: just tears that weren’t yet dry. I wiped these off with the back of my left hand, and I wiped the hand on the thick fabric of my uniform skirt. “These children look funny,” I thought to myself.
While I was intrigued watching other children and listening to their crying, there came a thunderous sound.
“EVERYBODY STOP CRYING RIGHT NOW!” the voice shouted.
I jumped. Many others gasped. I held my breath as time stood still. Then, in exaggerated slow motion, I looked. …We all looked.
Standing outside the school building (which was a house, really) was a woman. She looked like an authority figure, and I knew right away she was the school teacher. My friends- those whom my grandmother neither allowed to play with me, nor came inside our property- had warned me about the teacher type. Her petite body was covered in a fashionable dress of many bright colors. She wore black high heels, and her hair was the deepest, the blackest of black I had ever seen. It was piled up in a large beehive “do” –the kind I wished my mother ‘s hairdresser could do on my head- nice and tall. I had a problem making out the features of her face. She was light-skinned, but she covered it with a lot of colors –on her cheeks, on her eyes. Everywhere! However, I was mesmerized by her red lips. They were opened apart. They were moving. They were moving rapidly. My mother wore some colors on her face, too, but she never wore a lot like this. –None of the adult women around me wore this much color. I like what I saw! I was so intrigued with the school teacher! I held my breath again and started to wonder if I could –and should- get a closer look.
Then, came a high-pitched scream, and I blinked.
“Why must you come so close to me?” Another scream.
“Move back right now, or I’ll spank you with this ruler.” She waved a piece of wood in her hand that I had just learned was a “ruler.” She screamed again, and this time I could tell she was irritated with me.
I looked up just to see her face. It was like seeing a bunch of butterflies flocking together. I whispered, “Wow…. There are so many colors…. I love these lively colors on your face.”
She stopped waving the ruler. Her red lips twisted and formed different shapes. –This, alone, was amazing just on its own. She then used the other hand to touch her hair, and she smiled. “Oh, uh, why, thank you,” she responded to me, this time at a normal volume.
My eyes were still on the wonderful colors on her face. How exciting it would be if I could get my hands on these bright happy colors! I blurted out, “May I borrow these colors sometime? I’m sure I can make many beautiful paintings with them! “
Wait, did I hear a scream? I quickly added, “…And you can have some of my paintings, too! I’m sure they will go well together with the colors on your face!” I beamed, but that immediately changed into a confused expression -and shock- for that long stick called “ruler” landed on my side.
It didn’t hurt: it was more of a surprise. At home I had to commit such serious crimes to receive a spanking, and that would be done by a hand, not a stick.
So… this is what a ruler is for. I would make sure to maintain a safe distance from its swinging range. As far as the beautiful colors that I’d like to use on my paintings, I would have to check out my mother’s face colors. I didn’t think she owned a lot, but it was worth checking inside the drawers of her vanity set.