Thursday, November 5, 2009

Goose Alley

It was no doubt the dorkiest uniform I had to don in my life, and it lasted twelve years. I will try to paint as clear of a picture as I possibly could.

White boxy shirt with no shape-forming darts anywhere, and buttons going all the way to an inch under my collar bone was normally the choice of tops. The only variation was short sleeves in the summer and long sleeves in the winter. It was tucked in a knee-length black or navy blue skirt with pleats all around, and the kneecaps must be completely covered. White tube socks went half way up to the kneecaps were required, extending from a pair of black MaryJane style shoes. They had shops make these uniforms especially for schools, and we didn't have any saying in how they tailor to fit anybody in any complimentary ways. If you managed to do that, you must be from an extremely wealthy family. I knew of only one person during the entire twelve years who actually had her uniforms tailor-made, and we all thought she was a slut because the uniform greatly enhanced her feminine curves--a concept entirely foreign to us.

Everyone had to wear uniforms from first grade through twelfth. The only solace was everyone looked equally dorky--except for the one aforementioned.

The worst part was not the uniform, however. It was the hair. We must keep it no longer than our earlobes. That means we had to cut it an inch above the earlobes, so we could last a month or so without being called to the military training officer's office and getting a good reproach, or worse yet, a write-up. He checked our hair with a ruler every week, making sure we obey the rules. That also means there was always a patch of stubble in the back of my head from shaving off that part of the hair. Very few schoolgirl hairstyles in the world could compare to the ugliness of that patch. Whoever came up with the hairstyle ought to be publicly caned. I still cringe at the thought of the unsightly hairstyle.

My good friend Jeanne had the misfortune of being born with wavy hair. The training officer refused to accept her explanation and insisted that she permed her hair, which was against the rules, naturally. I think her parents eventually had to talk to the officer to clear her name. No wonder I felt a strange kinship when I saw the picture of a colonial period man with a "pumpkinhead" hair cut. He would fit in nicely in our school--on the girl side, that is. It was little wonder we all let our hair grow as long as possible once we were in college to make up for lost time.

I don’t recall the hairstyle for boys for reasons I will explain shortly. I vaguely remember it was extremely short, with at least half of the scalp shaved.

We also had to carry the crossbody book bag with the school's name on it. It added little to the dorkiness because, frankly, nothing much in the world would. Makeup was strictly prohibited. Since wearing makeup was considered a ritual for older women, we didn't really mind. Talking to a boy in school (or any boys for that matter) was an offense worse than wearing makeup. I got into serious trouble in junior high when the son of a family friend decided to write me a letter--and he sent it to my school. I still suffer the "No, I didn't do it!" knee jerk reaction nowadays from repeating “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Honestly.” a hundred times to the school interrogators. I never looked at the boys at school, let along talking with them.

To this day I have no clue what was in the letter. The interrogators had obviously read it, but they didn’t hand it over after the scolding, and I didn't want to ask for it. I left the office as if there were a scarlet letter embroidered on my chest. I was lucky to get a mere scolding. They warned me that I could be expelled--and therefore further shamed. I felt the utter unfairness, but could argue with no one. All that humiliation for something I didn't do, and the distrustful expression on their faces I had to endure. I only wish I could somehow meet the boy again today, and have the chance to say "What the hell were you thinking?" to his no longer boyish face. But this event happened years after the goose run, and I digressed.

The walk home after school was the happiest time of the day. After the scolding, spanking (from math problems we didn’t get right) and the assignment of endless homework for the day, finally we were able to have a little breathing room. We were able to talk, laugh, play tags, and banter before going home and burying our noses in the books until late into the night. We had to get ready for the test to enter junior high.

The walk would be perfect if I could get pass those geese without being nipped.

Somebody was raising geese in a residential neighborhood near our house. Weren't there any zoning laws, you ask. If there were, we had never heard of it. This somebody thought the geese were civilized enough animals to let loose in the alley unsupervised. They might look white and fluffy and cute to the owner, but they were in fact mean little creatures that were noisy, territorial, and aggressive. Unfortunately I knew this first hand.

My heart started pounding fast when I was near the alley. My ears were suddenly super sharp, and my palms were suddenly clammy. Are they anywhere near? Do I hear a goose honking? Is that the sound of little webbed feet flapping down the road? If none of these were true, I would dash to run the length of the alley with all my might, while praying to whatever god there was to protect me and blind the geese and get me home safely.

I was not always that lucky. Somehow they heard me coming more often than I liked. Even if I started out with no geese in sight, most of the time they appeared from nowhere in the middle of my mad dash, and started chasing me as if I were the big bad wolf set out to get one of them. The long tube socks were never long enough in these incidents, despite how much we hated the length otherwise. One or two of them always managed to get me on the calves, and always on the skin, not on the socks. Their loud honking noise and the long stretching necks just increased the terror many folds. I was the villian that invaded their space.

I eventually got home with sweat on my face, and bite marks on my calves. Luckily they didn't draw blood. Mostly just scrapes as if I fell down backwards and scraped myself on rocks. I would wash up, do my homework after my heartbeat calm down, and get ready for another day, and another goose run. The only thing I could do was to try and run faster next time.

We didn't stay in that neighborhood too long, but the mental alarm was permanently set. There are flocks of Canada geese in the park where I will now take my dog for walks. I always look at them with watchful eyes, and warn my dog that they are vicious fowl. I don’t allow her to get close to them, regardless how badly she wants to investigate the wobbling birds.

I can't tell you how happy I was every time I dined at this little restaurant in the city where the geese roamed free in the alley. My favorite dish there was boiled goose meat. There was simply no word for the feeling each time I sank my teeth into the juicy flesh.


  1. you must still cringe at the sound of "little webbed feet flapping down the road". LOL

    Poor thing, did you ever stop to thank that maybe they were the fashion geese and just giving you there opion of the gawd awful uniform?

    Great story once again Sarah

  2. Ha ha I really got a picture of that uniform!

    Kate x

  3. I'd heard tale of fearsome geese. Your story confirms it!

  4. Sarah, you just love sinking you teeth into that goode meat, man you an ole hnnibal, just gotta get the revenge, do you make your little doggy wear a uniform?

  5. Sarah, the picture of them geese chasing you is too funny, glad it was you not me, them geese is mean.

  6. mike--you're probably right. those geese have more fashion sense than the officials.

    kate--did you like the drawing of mine? :)

    hunter--yes, the tales are totally true.

    bob--i hate uniforms til this day. i will never make my doggie wear them. lol

  7. Hey Sarah where were you going to school? This is slavery of the uniform! I have nothing against (my kids wear it here in South Africa) but please,at least some "shape" and quality! The geese story is very funny:it reminds me of my older daughter running like wind when she was 5 because chased by a mountain cow! I also had nice meat that night....

  8. lorenza--it was back in taiwan. last time i checked they still have similar uniform and hair, but they looked a lot more 'hip' than ours. parents love uniforms. you wear what they tell you. end of back to school shopping!

  9. Sarah! I went to a convent school in Ireland where the uniform was a navy pinafore with a royal blue jumper and blazer. Royal blue! But the girls who boarded snuck local boys up the fire escape at night, so I guess it wasn't too penal! And geese are used as guard animals in lots of places around the world. So scary. The hissing!

  10. tina - sounds like irish girls have much more fun than us. i went to the wrong country! we didn't have boarding school though.

  11. Do NOT get inbetween a Mother goose and her goslings, you will NOT live to tell the tale...

    My school-girl run was in my own driveway, with kildare birds nesting in the gravel...

    I hate those birds to this very day!!!

    MsBurb, High Chief Mucky Muck of B3 & TLB2

    P.S. I've added your blog to my Favourites list on B3!!!

  12. Really good read. Made me smile :)

  13. Sometimes, though, I long for the uniform days. Things just seemed a lot easier way back then...

  14. msburb - bird nested in gravel? i'll have to do a research on it. thanks for adding my blog to your b3!

    s1nnerman - thanks for stopping by. glad you liked it.

    melissa - yes, uniforms have made things a lot easier. especially for the parents.

  15. NOW I know what Mike was talking about... I thought his reference to "goosing" you was something else altogether! Great story!

  16. charlene - lol! i don't even want to imagine what you thought it was. yes, he's been terrorizing me ever since! i just nicknamed him little jimmy. lj for short.

  17. Seems like Madonna had an outfit like that...with a few modifications...remember that one? The hair part is just plain cruel!!! What kind of school is this??? You won the battle of the geese in the long run, but, boy how scareeeeee!

  18. sandra - lol! if you were talking about the mini skirt and the fishnet stocking, no, ours have little resemblance to that. but madonna has to make everything sexy. yes, the worst part is the hair. ugh! it was just a plain old public school.

  19. Sarah ~ You crack me up! Being a Catholic school girl, I can relate to much of this uniform horror story. As for the geese, my aunt had three "girls" that loved her dearly and bit the snot out of me every chance they got. Crazy thing is, now I have three "girls" that love me. Craziness is definately hereditary.

  20. marla - i can't believe they are capable of love--that's amazing! i didn't go to a catholic school, but i wish i did. (see tina's comment) at least they had fun with the boys. :)

  21. aw I loved that story! It is real, right?

    We still have to wear uniforms to school here, but rules aren't as strict as it used to be at your school. I'm glad for that.

    Haha, loved the last paragraph about eating the geese something (sorry, I have a memory problem thing-y).

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely story that is so perfectly written. (:

  22. misskimmy - unfortunately it was real. i had goosephobia for years! glad you liked it.

  23. Incredible what kids have to put up with! Your school sounds like the school from hell. I'm glad I grew up in the wilds of Brooklyn where the only uniform I had to wear to school was a clean tee-shirt and bluejeans.

  24. nothingprofound - i just checked online and they are allowed to have long hair now. at least the high school part. yes, some memories of my schooling years sound like from hell. :)

  25. School sounds like hell, glad you survived.



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