On my first day of school Mum walked me across the grass playground to the pale yellow weatherboard Queenslander sitting on the edge of the teacher’s gravel driveway. It was a hot morning, but dew still covered the grass, hanging on to the last of the cool air. As I walked I looked down at my feet and scrunched my toes as far back as I could from the edges of my sandals. The water creeping in from the wet grass mixed with the holiday dirt on the inside of the leather, and quickly turned to mud between my toes.
At the weatherboard Mum said she would be back at two to get me. I hugged her middle and made for the top of the stairs. Looking in I saw lots of kids in navy uniforms just like mine, brown desks, and cut out planets hanging from string on the ceiling.
Inside, my teacher Mrs Edmonds asked my name, took my hand, and walked me over to a red plastic tub in the corner. It was filled with sand and sticking out of the sand were tiny green dinosaurs and a few orange metal trucks. I stood and watched and after a minute or so, dropped to my knees and reached for a dinosaur. It was one of the ones with a long neck. At the other side of the container was a girl in a tiny cotton dress with curly blonde hair and ears that turned over slightly at the top. We made a riverbed in the sand and walked our dinosaurs up it. Hers was one with horns. When it came time to sit down at the desks we both insisted to have one together.
All of us sitting around the tables had nametags on, black texta in neat teacher writing, our names shaped out on pink cardboard with a little sticker of a Saturn next to the letters. It didn’t help that most of us couldn’t read anyway. Mrs Edmonds and Miss Brodie talked to us about what we would do in the coming week, and that each term we have a theme and this time it was space.
After about half an hour one boy sitting down at the table got up and ran to the back of the room. His shorts had darkened around the tops of his legs, and he started to cry. He waited there while Mrs Edmonds walked over to him and took his hand, leading him down to the boys’ sheds at the other side of the car park.
I sat there listening to Miss Brodie talk about how to put tuckshop lunch in. We had to write what we wanted on a brown paper bag, put money inside, roll down the top, and then put it in a plastic container that lived on her desk. The container had a sticker on it that said tuckshop. She said make sure you roll down the top or your money will fall out.
Next to me I saw my new friend with the curly ears unzip her pocket and rest her hand in it. Quietly, I unzipped my pocket and laid my hand inside too, checking that I’d done it right.