When I started the first grade, a milkman still came to our house about twice a week, setting glass bottles on the porch next to our front door. Sometimes he brought chocolate milk too, which was a special treat for me and my two brothers. (I also have two sisters, but they were beyond chocolate milk by then.)
On pleasant evenings my grandparents or other relatives sometimes came over to relax in lawn chairs in the front yard, talking about life in general. I chased lightning bugs with the other children, and we all had a nice time.
Dale Evans Rogers was one of my favorite celebrities. I identified with her, since I loved horses and westerns, but also because we shared a first name. Little did I know that, when I married, we would also share a last name.
Although I looked forward to the first grade, it disappointed me that girls were required to wear dresses. (In kindergarten, I was the only girl who wore pants.) Begrudgingly, I put on a dress for my first day of school, and received a terrible scrape on the back of my leg when I went down the playground’s sliding board. (I knew it was impractical.)
I had one dress I liked. It was a beautiful shade of red, with a blue locomotive running around the hem. I wore it one day when I didn’t drink all of my milk at lunch. For some reason I threw the carton in the trash can as hard as I could, and milk exploded all over me. I cried as lunch workers wiped it with wet towels–I thought my red dress was ruined. (I don’t remember, but it was probably fine.)
Another dress that stands out in my mind was blue with math problems scribbled all over it. I was afraid people would think someone had written on my dress. My mother assured me that wouldn’t happen, but it still worried me.
For some reason I wore the blue dress when I was on “Monty’s Rascals,” a children’s television show in the nearby city of Greenville, S.C. (We occasionally celebrated birthdays that way.) About thirty children perched on bleachers in the studio to watch cartoons. When it was time for Mr. Monty to talk to me, he said, “It looks like somebody wrote all over your dress!”
I knew it.
Around that same time, we had lots of kittens at my house. The litter included a solid white kitten with a black tail. It think it was the only one we couldn’t give away, even though it was cute. We called it Inktail, since it looked like somebody dipped its tail in ink. We had enough cats, so we decided to take it to the animal shelter, hoping it would get an appearance on “Monty’s Rascals.”
We watched the show in anticipation when the animals were on, and it was easy to spot Inktail in the box with the other kittens. Mr. Monty picked him up for a special camera shot, saying, “It looks like somebody dipped this kitten’s tail in ink!”
Since it was one of my favorite shows, I was glad Mr. Monty and I thought so much alike.