One-by-one we filed into the fourth grade classroom, right passed the teacher. She did not say a single word to me as I slipped through the door and headed for my seat. Since my desk was located in the first row, the teacher could not help but notice me as she took her place at the front of the classroom with the blackboard right behind her. I, quite literally, held my breath as she smiled at me. Still, she said nothing. I could just feel the tension from my friends as they waited for her to scold me or send me home to change my clothing. Maybe she would even send me to the Principal’s office. As Mrs. Handy opened her mouth to speak, I was sure my racing heart could be seen moving that left pocket of the striped shirt.
“Good morning, Class. Take out your language workbooks and a pencil, please. Turn to page forty-seven.” Mrs. Handy waited until all of us had found the page and she began talking about the stuff on page forty-seven. Nothing more. Okay, maybe she would say something to me at recess. I would be okay until then. Just do my work and don’t draw attention to myself.
The mid-morning bell rang and we all closed our workbooks and put down our pencils. Everyone but me was more-than-ready for recess. Out we filed again and burst from the line as soon as our feet hit the threshold of the school’s backdoor. I don’t remember just who had secured the baseball equipment from the closet on the way out, but I ran as fast as I could to take my place. We only had fifteen minutes to play so no one bothered to waste a minute talking about how I was dressed; we just got right to the game. How free I felt running from base to base in my cotton pants! I don’t know if my short little legs actually ran faster but I do know that I did not need to worry what was happening with my skirt that morning!
All-too-soon the bell rang again and that lead ball was back bothering my stomach. It turned out that I didn’t need to worry myself about filing passed the teacher after recess either; she did not say a word to me. The remainder of the morning was spent in the routine schoolwork kinds of things. Oh, if only the forty—five minutes of the lunch period would go as smoothly as the recess had.
While other teachers were looking at me take my place at the table and open my lunchbox, I tried to be casual and just keep looking down while I ate my baloney sandwich. I ate quickly, stowed my lunchbox and raced outside to play away what remained of the lunch period. It was a mixed blessing kind of playtime that day. On the one hand, I was running free in my pants and hanging upside-down on the monkey bars; but, on the other hand, I kept waiting for the hand that would grab me and tell me to come into the office for a little talk, if you know what I mean. No one did. No one said a word to me and, in fact, I began to tell myself that it was just as I suspected: no one cared what the kids wore to school, as long as it was clean and not junky. I could hardly wait to tell my mother.
Happily the school day ended without incident or mention of my clothing; I was ecstatic. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. Mrs. Handy smiled at me as I was passing through the door of the classroom.
“Uh, Sojourner, cool outfit there. It looked like you were really enjoying yourself on the playground today.” I was grinning from ear to ear as I enthusiastically confirmed her observation.
“It was a one-time pass, Sojourner. You will be wearing a dress tomorrow, right?”
The dress code did not stop being a thorn in my side until something unexpected happened to me.
****EOD Transitions: Attire, Conclusion… Coming Tomorrow