All around me children chatter and bounce like so many jack-in-the-boxes. Their voices are hard, loud. I sit silently in my desk, in the middle of the room, in the middle of this strange building. I only want to go home again and play with Karen, my sister, in the vast landscape of fields and mountains whispering around us.
The teacher says it’s time for show-and-tell, and a boy goes to the front of the classroom with his new Tonka truck. A girl brings up a shiny new bracelet. Suddenly, I know what I want to bring when it’s my turn.
A week later, Mom dresses Karen in her frilly pink dress with the flounces and white ribbons, and takes us to school. We stand in the front of the room, all the kids wiggling like worms in their desks. “This is my sister,” I say proudly and make a grand gesture toward her. Some of the girls inspect her dress, one boy yawns, another digs a booger from his nose. Mom and the teacher are whispering in the back. I don’t understand why they don’t clap.
I want to tell them how we ride double on our pony, Cindy, how we pick wild flowers and press them beneath our mattress, how we named each new foal in the pasture by the river. When Mom takes her home and I’m left alone at my desk in the middle of the classroom, for the first time I understand what it means to be lonely.
Dr. Danielle Jones teaches writing and literature at the University of Montana Western. She has a Ph.D in Poetry from SUNY-Albany and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University. For the 2012-2013 academic year, she has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to Russia, where she will teach literature and work on her memoir, Mother Russia, Father Time.