I was born in Mobile, Alabama. I have no memory of this as we moved by the time I was 18 months. We moved to Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia before settling in my mother’s home town. I did Kindergarten in two different states. Needless to say, I was a bit anxious about starting first grade.
I remember walking to school. I cannot fathom that I walked to school as a first grader but I do remember walking to school. A parent would help me cross the four lane State Route and I would walk three blocks, turn right and walk two more. The really bad part (besides the house that had dogs) was the school buses took that same route and I used to think when I saw their brake lights, they were going to stop and let me ride. Not so much, more slowing down for the turn. Oh, how I dreamed of riding the bus, until we moved and I had to.
Harry was a back-to-school purchase with my supplies. He fit perfectly in my hand and often slept in my pencil box during the day. Maybe getting taken out for a difficult moment or just a glance for confidence. As you can see by his appearance, he spent a great deal of time protected in my hand. The school year continued without too much fuss (I had the best teacher ever (you will get to meet her later)), until the Friday I got home from school and could not find Harry anywhere. He wasn’t in a coat pocket or my book bag. He was gone.
To say I was devastated is an understatement. Harry was my only friend at school. I was the weird kid that could read and got to sit in the hall and read harder books while the class did other things. I had lost my best friend.
Because I was not really a drama child, my parents realized this was a huge problem. And while I had grown up under the rules of “You lost it? Too bad there is no more”, they took pity on me and we went to the store, to the display and they said I could get a new friend to take to school. Apparently alligators were not a hot selling item as they still had one. A twin, but not really. I bought Harold and he was a stand-up guy, but he was not Harry. I tried all weekend to pretend he was Harry. On Monday, I went to school with my new alligator friend. I took him to my desk and opened my pencil box to make him comfortable for the long school day.
And there was Harry!