I admire Cecile Lusby’s first-place winning essay in our recent Writing It Real contest for its use of dialog to involve the reader in the author’s life-changing childhood experience and for the way the essay spans time, letting us know the impacts of our interactions with others affect us for a lifetime, and working out who we are takes decades
by Cecile Lusby
I started school in 1947 at a time when my mother’s divorce caused us to move from place to place, school to school. Every school campus had a Sunshine Class situated inside a fenced off area where handicapped children were taught. Post-polio patients got around on crutches or wheelchairs, as did those with cerebral palsy. Downs’ Syndrome and “slow” students of all ages and sizes went to that area. Their playground fence set them apart from, but visible to the rest of the campus. Little fingers and hands poked out of the diamond shaped openings in the cyclone fence. I went up to touch their hands and talk to them only to be shoo-ed away before recess ended. The times required that these children be separate.
In fall of 1952 I was almost eleven when we moved in with our great aunt at the family ranch outside of Fresno. I started at American Union Elementary, having just finished fifth grade at St. Joseph’s in Berkeley. The other students in my new class had already chosen their own friends years before. In my second week I returned from lunch taking the back way and saw a girl standing inside the yard of the Sunshine Class. I waved to her.
In the next days we talked over the hurricane fence and got to know each other. She said her name was Benetta, but I could call her Beni. She was in sixth grade too, “But I don’t know why I’m in here. Somebody mixed me up.”
“How is that?” I asked.
“Look around, Ceci. Everyone here is
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