“You’re a nerd,” Sadie reminds me daily, despite my endless efforts to reap her approval. When I was three she taught me what she was learning in school and regrets it fiercely because I wrote her name on the wall and she got blamed for it. Nevertheless, I started reading for enjoyment very early. Kindergarten lasted only two weeks before I was moved into the First Grade, though my mother claims to have been morally opposed to the advancement for reasons of emotional readiness. Sadie, a big third grader at the time, was able to walk me home from school where she’d antagonize me until Mother got home from work.
The following year I was moved into the G.T. school, which Sadie calls L.D. and says I have to ride the short bus. I do have to ride a bus into a neighborhood with graffiti everywhere, but I like being the teacher’s pet and having the highest grade even amongst the smart kids. It feels important.
As the work becomes more challenging, the verbal abuse from Sadie intensifies. My parents stick up for me, pointing out that my math is at a higher level than hers.
“At least I don’t go to The Nerd School,” she snaps back.
Henry asks her, “Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A movie star,” she says, having just stolen the spotlight in the school play.
“You’d better like waitressing,” is his response. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t defend me. It just makes her hate me even more.
My sixth grade class is chosen to participate in a study through Johns Hopkins University to take the college SATs without preparation. They don’t give us our scores, but I receive a certificate declaring a level ‘at or above the average high school senior,’ and college brochures and applications start pouring in through the mail. I lock myself away from Sadie and read through every one. Long Island sounds really cool but so does Santa Cruz. My mother tells me I am only ten and shouldn’t be worried about it yet. My father says I’m going to need a scholarship. Mom Stephens tells me to go to law school. I will be the first one in my family to go to college.