I Want to be a Munchkin or an Oompa Loompa

The schoolyard changes as we move through the years, but is it the schoolyard or us? From that scared little girl on the first day of school to the anxious mother going into a school fundraising meeting, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference. No matter how old you are, there are still bullies. There are still people who feel so threatened, jealous or territorial that they can’t help but push their negativity onto others. But why? Why can’t a playground be JUST a playground? Why can’t it be all about the children and learning and everyone getting along like those cute little orange Oompa Loompas in the chocolate factory or the happy-looking munchkins from Oz? I could be the happy little green one doing backstroke through a river of chocolate ganache while sucking on a lollipop tree… Actually, that’s it! I’m buying up shares in Cadbury. Problem solved.

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Back to school.

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She walks through the school gate and looks around to see who else was early on the first day of the school year. There are lots of small children running around chasing each other as a teacher calls out for them to “SLOW DOWN!” Off to the right, three boys sit on the concrete, facing each other swapping Pokemon cards. Two smaller girls sit beside them; the older one has taken out the younger girl’s ponytail and is attempting to re-do it herself. There are long strands of straight black hair blowing in the warm summer breeze, and the more the older girl tries to gather the fly-away hairs, the more she sets free.

After standing by the gate, gazing around, she slowly makes her way over to the metal benches by the fence and sits, resting her back on the fence while she waits for the school bell. She looks at her watch and notes that there are only a few minutes left until the bell rings.

As she rests her head back on the fence and ponders what today will have in store, she notices a boy who looks to be about eight years old standing in front of the water bubblers with a sullen look on his face. He’s standing in front of his father, who is dressed in a crisp black suit and white shirt with a purple tie. The boy has tears in his eyes and lifts his chin up towards the sky as if he’s willing them not to fall. His father is pointing at him and leaning into his face, almost spitting his words in anger. They’re too far away for her to hear what it’s about, but it’s clear the man is angry. The boy says nothing in return, but the father keeps digging his index finger into his chest and the boy keeps trying to keep his tears at bay. What appears to be the boy’s mother joins them from the car – a shiny new black BMW – and teeters over in her sky-scraping black patent leather heels. She smooths her suit jacket as she approaches them and looks to the man with pleading eyes. He immediately storms off and returns to his car while the mother puts her hand on the boy’s shoulder. They exchange a brief farewell and she joins her husband in the car just as the bell rings.

Everyone runs to the assembly area and picks up their bags to put on their backs. The school captains stand out front and lead the school in morning prayer. She can’t take her eyes off the boy. He’s struggling holding back the tears and just as one falls, her heart breaks for him.

As a mother, she just wants to hold him tight. She blows her boys a kiss each and heads back to the car for another day at home with text books of her own and a baby girl to distract her.