When school was out, I hurried to find my sister and get out of the schoolyard before seeing anybody in my class. But Barbara and her friends, had beaten us to the playground entrance and they seemed to be waiting for us. Barbara said, “So now you’re in the A class. ”
She sounded impressed.
“What’s the A class?” I asked.
Everybody made superior yet faintly envious giggling sounds. “Well, why did you think the teacher moved you to the front of the room, dopey? Didn’t you know you were in the C class before, way in the back of the room?”
Of course I hadn’t known. 『The Wenatchee fifth grade was bigger than my whole school which had been in North Dakota, and the idea of subdivisions within a grade had never occurred to me.』① The subdividing for the first marking period had been done before I came to the school, and l had never, in the six weeks I’d been there, talked to anyone long enough to find out about the A, B, and C classes.
I still could not understand why that had made such a difference to Barbara and her friends. I didn’t yet know that it was shameful and dirty to be a transient laborer and ridiculous to be from North Dakota. I thought living in a tent was more fun than living in a house.
I didn’t know that we were gypsies, really (how that thought would have excited me then! ), and that we were regarded with the suspicion felt by those who plant toward those who do not plant. It didn’t occur to me that we were all looked upon as one more of the untrustworthy natural phenomena, drifting here and there like mists or winds, I didn’t know that I was the only child who had camped on the Baumann’s land ever to get out of the C class. I didn’t know that school administrators and civic leaders held conferences to talk about the problem of transient laborers.
I only knew that for two happy days I walked to school with Barbara and her friends, played hopscotch and jumped rope with them at class intervals, and was even invited into the house for some ginger ale—a strange drink I had never tasted before.