This is a picture of my first day of school at Midway Elementary on the outskirts of Cumming, Georgia. Just the year before, I’d watched my sister take the same school bus, her absence inaugurating the longest year of my short life. On the days she spent at school, I counted the seconds until she returned home. In this picture, Mrs Ridings, our bus driver is smiling, but I can’t say I remember much joy coming from our cranky, yet devoted, chauffeur. But what did I care? I was going to school! The mysterious place my sister disappeared to without me, the place where they instructed you in the mystical arts of reading and writing and how to make friends.
It was actually my sister’s first day of school, not mine, that gave me my first literacy memory. Bell hopped off the bus, ran into the house, and grabbed my little hand. She pulled me toward a clear spot on the floor, gave me a pencil and paper, and instructed me to sit down. And then carefully, she placed her hand over mine and helped me write the letters V I C T O R I A. “Victoria,” she sounded out slowly and with dramatic effect, “That’s your name.”