Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

October 30, 2006

kelsey: a technicolor coat

Kelsey's introduction to elementary school had a biblical ring to it, but it did teach her the basic rule of belonging to a group.

"I came from a very poor family and my mother got all of our clothes from a woman she cleaned for," explains Kelsey.

"On the first day I started school she decked me out with a purple and yellow striped coat from some rich kid that I instantly hated - and I'm rich the rich kid did, too, as it was brand new and looked like it had never been worn."

"I can still see myself in the mirror as a little girl wearing that technicolor coat and being scared out of my wits by it as well as the thought of leaving the safety of my home to start school."

"My mother didn't even walk me to school on the first day," says Kelsey. "My sisters attended the local school and took me with them."

"Nobody in my family laughed at the coat - we all had to wear whatever mom provided for us."

"But as soon as we got to school the other kids starting laughing at me and calling me names because the coat was so loud."

"My sisters told me not to pay attention to them and not to cry - and I tried very hard to do as they said."

"I can't remember anything more about my first day at school - or my first year at school - other than wearing that coat," sighs Kelsey.

"When it was time to go home I had to wait in the grounds for my sisters to finish their classes - and this is the part I remember most vividly."

"The other kids grabbed me and tore the coat off me and threw it onto the ground where a lot of ants were."

"They stomped on the coat and jeered at me and made me cry," sighs Kelsey. "That moment I learned about school bullies and how to avoid them in future."

"A teacher came out and took care of me because I was crying so badly and she called my mother."

"When my mom arrived at the school she picked up the coat and brushed it down and asked me to put it on because it was very cold," says Kelsey, "but I refused to wear it."

"I stomped my little foot and said I'd never wear that horrible coat again and I never did."

"Instead, I started wearing a spare coat of my big sister's that was way too big for me but it never got me into trouble like that technicolor coat did."

"The kids accepted poverty - old, dirty, misshapen and torn clothes - but they never accepted anything that was loud."

"I guess I learned very early in my school days the importance of conformity, didn't I?" laughs Kelsey.

"If you don't dress like everyone else you're a loser or an outcast - and will get picked on - and the other kids taught me a lesson that day I'll never forget."

"I think school uniforms - even at the very start of a kid's school life - are a good thing," says Kelsey, "because they promote the conformity that's so necessary for kids to accept each other."

"But," adds Kelsey, "the cost of providing them should be subsidized otherwise poor families like mine would never be able to afford them."

"I'm at college now and we may as well be wearing a 'uniform' because we all dress alike."

"I don't know what it is about people that makes us want to look the same," sighs Kelsey, "but it must be instinctive - something built into us - because I knew it when I was five years old and so did the other kids."

"I have no idea what happened to that technicolor coat," laughs Kelsey, "but I hope my mom didn't pass it on to some other poor kid and make her life as miserable as it made mine that first day at school I wore it."

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