Mr. Ricard was my Kindergarten teacher at Las Lomas Elementary. His smile was big and warm, and stretched out it fits perfectly inside of his neatly groomed facial hair. He had a perfectly round shaped, and shiny bald head and he always wore corduroy pants with plaid flannel button down shirts. I loved him immediately. He felt familiar, and safe, just like my worn out Paddington bear. I just couldn’t stand the way he would sometimes look at me with so much pity and concern. It always made me feel guilty, or even ashamed that I couldn’t ever just make him feel happy. I know he was only trying to help me cope with being bullied at school but I also wondered if the extra attention he’s giving me is only making things worse.
I can remember when all of the name calling and the bullying started, but even when i tried to put myself in their shoes I could never understand any of it. How can you make fun of somebody for something they have no control over? And, Why? I was only five years old when I learned from these bullies that my family was poor. It made me so lonely, afraid and confused. How could children be so cruel?
I dreaded everything about school, but I always feared recess the most. When lunch was over I would push my way to the front of the gate so that I could be the first kid out on that playground. As soon as the gate swung open I ran as fast I could towards a large flesh-colored round plastic structure with small holes cut out that all of the kids had nicknamed The Cheese. They named it for its shape, and I have to agree. It sort of resembles one of those big hunks of swiss from The Tom & Jerry show. If I ran fast enough after that gate opened I could make it to The Cheese before anyone would see me. On those days I always felt the most happy while at school. I thought being ignored and left alone was always better than being bullied. I feel like i could spend an eternity here. On the bad days I would lay here on this cold wet sand, in the center of The Cheese, curled up in the ball with my eyes closed shut. On those days Mr. Ricard would have to come find me. The silence of The Cheese muffled the laughter of playing children. This cold wet sand felt like home, and it soothed me. I missed my Mom.