Not the girl you think you are


It’s hard to explain to someone who’s known you less than a year what you were like for the other 46.

All those experiences that shaped you. All the ways you’ve grown. All the bad patterns that were formed. All the ones you’re trying to break. 

Let’s start with me in primary school.

Way back in 2012 I wrote a blog about those early years. It went something like this, but with a bit of an upgrade … 

I was the girl with freckles and pigtails, tied with plastic bobbles and ribbons.

In fourth grade, I was christened the “walking dictionary” – when the teacher was busy, he directed all class enquiries to me (I peaked early).

In fifth grade, I pretended to read Runyon On Broadway to impress the head librarian, Mrs Thurlow (who – ’70s scandal – remarried and became Mrs Arca De Pane, or something exotic like that). God knows what Runyon was doing in a primary school library. It was beyond me, but my fake interest afforded many library privileges and hushed speculation about my superior intellect.

I pulled the wool over my sixth grade teacher’s eyes too. He taught me Jabberwocky and I repaid him by sneaking into his storeroom to check the results of my – and the rest of the class’s – IQ tests. It was naughty, but I just had to KNOW. I’d been hoping for something MENSA-worthy after all those Reader’s Digest tests I’d done at my Nan’s place.

Sadly, no.

I remember the girl who sat next to me in class smelling different. She was Greek so I’m thinking it was garlic. I didn’t know what garlic was. I ate Vegemite sandwiches for lunch every day (with the occasional Smiths chip roll from the canteen), chops with three veg for dinner from Monday to Thursday, fish fingers on Friday, KFC on Saturday and savoury mince on Sunday.

My nickname was “House on Fire”. Last name House, hair colour red … geddit? My name inspired endless jokes like “If you’re a house, where are your doors and windows?” Bwahahaha. My initials – AMH – were stuck on my school port in gold plastic letters. When the “A” fell off I was rechristened Mouse House.

And I was a mouse. Painfully shy, terrified of my own shadow.

At lunchtimes, I was junk-food runner for a cool girl called Angela who had better things to do than queue at the canteen. She rewarded me with icy poles. While handing over her cream buns and salt & vinegar chips, Angela would scare me witless with tales about high school – they stuck your head in the toilets and flushed, they pinged your bra. Angela’s mum was a teacher, so she knew.

I walked to school every morning. It wasn’t a short trip. No namby-pamby drop-offs at the school gates like the Sprogs get every day. No molly-coddly trumpet lessons, art classes or gymnastics either. I did suffer 10 torturous years of swimming lessons. And they eventually taught me to dog-paddle five metres.

My parents took me to Surfers Paradise once, where I horrified them by almost drowning in the kiddie paddle pool at age 10. The lecture I got afterwards about public humiliation …

I felt deeply ripped off because I didn’t have a slinky, click-clackers or a gonk. And I yearned for Space Food Sticks in my lunchbox like Suzie Evans had. I wore an ABBA badge and thought Boney M and Doctor Hook (my Dad’s personal favourite) rocked. I was beside myself when The Bay City Rollers stayed at the same hotel as my family when we visited Sydney once. I glimpsed their tartan-clad legs through the crowd in the foyer. Much kudos in the playground on Monday.

I was obsessed with Greek mythology and dinosaurs and palm reading and hypnotism. My sister and her friends were kind enough to pretend I’d sent them into trances in the playground at lunchtime.

I desperately wished I was a twin. Identical preferably.

There weren’t many kids on my wavelength at Belair Primary School, so my “tribe” was quite small. Katherine, Megz and I remain friends to this day. We don’t see each other too often, but I know they’d be there for me in a heartbeat.

It’s quite lovely.

That was me in primary school, how about you? 

Song of the day: Crowded House “Not the girl you think you are”

6 thoughts on “Not the girl you think you are

  1. So many memories for me here too. Hair bobbles – I always wanted some, but never got them. I was allowed a canteen lunch on a Friday – Big Ben pie or a sausage roll, and one of those frozen drinks shaped like a pyramid. Even the salad sandwiches (brown bread, lots of beetroot and a strange white butter which may have been cream cheese) were a treat! Otherwise it was cheese and vegemite sandwiches from home. I remember Space Food sticks were all the rage (along with Tang)! It’s great you’re still friends with those girls from primary school. I went to three different primary schools, and have one dear friend from the third one (year 6) – we also went to high school together. It is lovely to have friends with a shared history.

    • I used to retch if the beetroot and tomato made my bread soggy … actually now that you come to mention it I can still taste those salad sandwiches from the canteen … weird!

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