As we walked to the Post Office, my daughter suddenly stopped, as she often does when a thought so huge in scope appears it causes her whole body to pause.
“Mummy, when I go to big school, will I wear a dress everyday?”
“I think so.”
She started jumping up and down in the middle of the pavement. “Yes, I love big school!”
A neighbour walked by and greeted us both, mispronouncing her name. I could have corrected her but didn’t — I don’t tend to when people mispronounce my own name either. My daughter looked at the woman square in the eyes and corrected her, followed by an excited smile as she said:
“I’m going to big school soon, and I’m going to wear a dress everyday!”
As the years pass and the distance from my childhood grows, I interpret memories of school differently. Particularly the first three years, where previously my recollection swayed towards it being the time where my aptitude for English was first noticed and I learnt the intoxicating thrill of receiving my parent’s pride. In recent years however, I recognise that feeling good at something was the invisible cloak that hid everything else about early school. I learnt many things during that time, but what stands out is first learning what it was like to feel awkward and lonely. Not in a fleeting sense, but to be swept into and engulfed deeply in a pervasive state of unhappiness.