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.