• Barbara Elk

Re-attaching the Pieces

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

I believe I have remembered large portions of my childhood because I possess a good memory but also because there were so many people, places, faces and life-changing events that occurred in such a short span of time. It's congruent to watching a cherished photograph being ripped to pieces right in front of you and you want to pick them up and save as many pieces as you can. And hopefully, you can put it back together at a later time.

The early memories of when I first arrived at the children's home stick with me. I was given a bed to sleep in, shared toys to play with, and recycled clothing to wear. If my memory serves me right, there was around 15 children at the Maples. We ranged from kindergarten age to early teens. I was one of the youngest when I first arrived.

I was enrolled into Linden Lanes Elementary School. Every school morning, a group of us would walk 15 minutes to get to school. Our conversations were normally centered on the memories of our families or the latest drama being played out at the home. We stuck with each other because even though we didn't understand what led each of us to that certain time and place, we knew enough that we were in the same boat. Some of the girls had been there long enough to know of children who left, and other children who arrived but left soon after for new homes.

I remembered we all spoke to each other about our past and where we came from, and we each shared the same hope of seeing our mothers again.

Shortly after I arrived, I overheard one of the older girls complaining to a staff member. Her complaint had to do with my long hair. She wanted to know why my hair hadn't been cut yet. It didn't dawn on me until that moment that the other girls had short hair. Soon after, I was led into the small dining room and told to sit on a plastic molded chair that had been pulled away from one of the round tables. A woman brought out shears and started cutting off my hair.

"Now you look like us," said the older girl who had complained, smiling at me.

I ran my fingers on the back of my exposed neck, feeling the stubby ends of my newly cut hair and weakly smiled back, accepting that, perhaps, it was a good thing.

Several days later in school, our class was working with different mediums. I completed my project early and looked down at my finished artwork; I had drawn a round face, with two black circles for eyes, a funny looking nose and an uneven thin smile. And for hair, I cut long strands of dark colored yarn and glued them carefully with sticky fingers to the top of the head, allowing the ends to hang freely. After adding on several long pieces, I sat back and looked at my masterpiece. I raised my hand to let my teacher, Mrs. Nay, know that I was done.

From the first time I met my kindergarten teacher, I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world, aside from my mother, of course. She had long, straight black hair that flowed past her slim waist. I often found myself enviously watching her gleaming hair swing back and forth as she moved back and forth across the school room.

She walked over to where I was seated and complimented me on my work. She then told me I could use the rest of the yarn for whatever idea came to mind.

I smiled up at her and watched as she walked away, her shiny dark hair neatly hanging over her shoulders and back, swinging back and forth.

Suddenly, inspiration hit me and I picked up the extra pieces of yarn. Excitedly, I began tying the yarn to the ends of my short hair.

Minutes later, after the art part of the class was over, I ignored the looks and curious stares from my classmates as I flung the long strands of yarn hair over my shoulders. I finally regained what I had lost.

Looking back, I can only imagine what my teacher thought of my bright idea.

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