Sunday, September 12, 2010

School Daze

Growing up we had a lot of first days at new schools as we moved around a bit as a family (five children all born in different counties in Ireland).

I remember one particular first day in a new school vividly. I was 11, tall, gangly and skinny and at the age where I was uncomfortable with what was starting to happen to my body. I was very self aware.

The town we moved to was very small and my two sisters and I had been the subject of much speculation amongst the boys – well three new girls in a small town! We had also been the subject of much speculation amongst the girls – oh no, not three new girls!!!

The first morning we were starting school it was utter chaos in the house as my Mum lined us up for our morning ritual and one by one we stood fidgeting in front of her as she plaited our long hair – three sets of two plaits. We were going into 4th, 5th and 6th class in the local convent school and my My mum kept muttering to herself – everything has to be perfect.

To make matters worse there was no school uniform which meant clothes went flying in all directions in the bedroom as the three of us tried to decide what we should wear.

I knew we were missing books and I was worried that we would get told off. I also worried about whether we would be accepted into the school community. We were blow-ins after all.

I could hear my Dad out the front, impatiently revving the engine of the car. I could put it off no longer so I grabbed my spotless new bag and opened the front door.

Just as we were about to get into the car, Mum called out for us to wait – a Kodak moment she said. So we posed for the picture looking into her camera which was one of those with the external flash bulbs.

Flash! As we pulled up outside the school I was still half blind from it.

Dad said 'good luck, behave ourselves', and one by one each of us got out of the car.

I could hear the screams and laughter of the other children before I saw them. There was a narrow gate into the school that we had to push in, squeeze past, and then push out again and it could only take one of us at a time.

I checked my watch to make sure that we weren't late and the three of us walked together up a tunnel and stepped out into a sea of colour and children.

There were children running and laughing, some playing catch and another group playing camogie.

We didn't know what to do, so we just stood there staring up at the dark, grey, unwelcoming building. Is this it?, I thought, as I remembered the colourful, bright, modern school we had left behind us in Ballybay.

A nun appeared in front of us and said: “Are you the three Drumms?" I giggled, thinking of three musical instruments standing in the yard.

She said: “I'm Sr Finbar, the Head Nun”, and then she asked us who was who – so she obviously had a note of our names already.

A bell rang and within seconds the yard was empty. That's when the butterflies started in my stomach.

We were told to follow her and we did, obediently. The smell that hit me as we walked into the school hall was a rather odd mixture of fresh bread and toilets!

We were shown exactly where out coats were to be hung, told about wiping our feet, no running on the stairs and no shouting inside the school. Shouting, i thought, Shouting! I doubted I would ever be able to speak at all!

We were taken up a dark stairway, like something you would see in an old horror film.

We were brought to our classroom - 4th, 5th and 6th classes were all in the same room! So 36 sets of eyes turned to stare as we stood frozen to the spot at the door.

Then Sr Finbar said what I was hoping she wouldn't: “Here are the three Drumms!”. The children erupted into giggles and laughter, but then who could blame them.


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