Two gender defined rows, straight military style, into the gymnasium, windowless, dank, metal folding chairs, in arrays, one small 14 inch black & white tube TV on top a cart six feet tall, a long twisting extension cord connects to a wall outlet, aluminum foil wrapped right antenna; an event important enough for constant shush…shush…of teachers who squint at the blurry reception, erratic horizontal lines, some alternate turns in the staff room for filtered cigarettes, chocolate bars, pastries, strong coffee from a percolator.
The PTA at our school is most generous, my mother touts every third week, her rotation to brew coffee, bake muffins, straighten magazines, fill vases with fresh cut flowers.
An invisible straight line down the middle of the cement playground keeps boys who fight, play kickball, separate from girls who skip, jump double-dutch and dare each other to cross the line, just one toe. Two female teachers, silk scarfs around necks, panty hose and high heels, their playground duty day, straddle the invisible line, shift foot to foot, look at their wind-up wrist watches, talk, point at random children, shake their heads.
Girls not allowed to wear pants, only dresses, jumpers, zippers up the back, white buttoned-down blouses, plaid elastic waist skirts, knee socks in the fall, heavy tights all winter, anklets in the spring.
Boys in khakis, cream or sandy a few dungarees pulled to the waist, cinched belts, buttoned-down collared shirts tucked in, jackets unzippered year-round, tie shoes, hats removed with the cross of the threshold.
Everyone wears rubbers when it rains. Gender defined red or brown, names printed in black magic marker down the sides, protects shoes from puddles pooling around curbs, keeping socks dry. We take them off inside, place them on plastic bags brought from home.
In snow we carry school shoes in shoe bags floral, pastels, an occasional groovy geometric print. Our names printed in black magic marker, they line the floor of the coat closet with practical warm boots, faux fur cuffs, wooden clothes-pinned together with our names in black pen. Knit hats & scarfs & mittens hang from the metal coat closet hooks, girls on one side, boys the other.
We all know cooties are real.
President John F Kennedy has been shot.