When the First Bell Rings, Go Home

My mother tells this wonderful story of her first year in school. My sister and I have laughed about this story for years while knowing that the story also underscored the essence of my mother still today. Recently, I found a new nugget in this story and I wanted to share that with you. My mother is from a small rural town in Georgia called Alapaha which is located in Berrien County. If you are to travel the Wiregrass Parkway you will go through Alapaha and be sure not to blink, or you will indeed miss it! In the 1950’s this small community had a school, a bank, and several stores that the locals visited.  Mama, like many during that time didn’t begin school until she was six and in the first grade…that was normal back then…now we rush them to “school” at 2.5 in hopes that we can begin working on their ACT scores and academic scholarships. I have more to say about that, but I will save it for another post. 

What you need to know about Mama is she was a playful little girl and she loved to be outside in nature. It is a good thing she loved outside because Mama came from humble beginnings including homemade dresses, one pair of everyday shoes, one pair of Sunday shoes, and an outhouse to boot! She did not care for structure, rules, or adults that kept her in a box. So, you can imagine her struggle with public education. I don’t think Mama had been told a whole lot about what to expect. Her parents were tobacco farmers and worked long days in the fields. There were not a lot of preparatory conversations about much of anything. 

Mama says that the school day started off like most would imagine. And like any other school day, the first bell rang …Mama packed up her things and walked home. To her surprise her mother, my grandma, said “Karen, what are you doing home? It is 10:30, school is not over until 3:00? Mama said, school is over…the bell rang, and I’m done.  Grandma walked my deflated mother back to school to finish rules, straight lines, and in the box learning. Years later Mama tells this story and she is clear…I had enough of rules, straight lines, and status quo expectations within two hours. I was ready to be free, to play, to live and love. I was so misunderstood, but my soul knew to go home when the first bell rang. 

I think about her soul telling her to go home…. her innermost being, and I think to myself about my own bells that ring. They don’t necessarily sound like a school bell…they are more like nudges, prayers, dreams, and knowings. So, I ask you what bell is ringing in you telling you to go home? Don’t wait until the last bell when you are exhausted, out of creative energy, and pissed. Come home to who you are, to what you are meant to be, to all the power, beauty and creativity living in you. May we all live like my Mama and go home when the first bell rings.

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