SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2009       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Sierra Buckles

Child’s Play

“Gina and Thomas sitting in a tree…” The chant was one that we all knew. We had heard it for years and saw the rise that it got out of my best friend Gina. Her cousin was the leader of the ritualistic chanting.

I started out my first day of the new school year by reuniting my gang and starting right in on picking on my cousin and her girlfriends. My cousin had always been a wimp; she experienced a lot of verbal abuse at home and learned at a young age to not talk back to prevent the abuse from becoming physical. I took her behavior as an opening to pick on her and her friends.

It was the first day of third grade and I was excited as usual. There were never any new kids at my school. It was always the same crowd that played together in the summers and had been in the same classes since kindergarten. Every year it was the same group of girls against the same group of boys. During recess we always played on the monkey bars. We were surrounded by run down playground equipment that desperately needed attention. The monkey bars were sturdy and unbreakable.

I lived on what was considered the poor side of town. All of my friends were Hispanic, but we never considered our difference as a factor for our friendship. There were four of us and I was the only White one. My best friend, Gina, lived two doors down from me. Her house was always more fun than mine as long as we minded our own business. She had a very large extended family. There were always uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents coming and going from her house.

My cousin had always been a wimp; she experienced a lot of verbal abuse at home and learned at a young age to not talk back to prevent the abuse from becoming physical. I took her reclusive behavior as an opening to pick on her and her friends.

I had two older brothers therefore it was easy for me to ignore the boys that taunted me and my friends at school. My girlfriends had a much harder time not letting the young boy’s ignorant comments bother them. My girl friends never said anything or stood up for themselves. As we played on the monkey bars during our afternoon recess the gang of boys started to approach us.

I starting chanting, “Gina and Thomas sitting in a tree…” knowing this always got a rise out of my cousin. She began yelling back and I continued on to the next girl telling her I watched her through her windows. Now I had two of them upset.

I remember thinking to myself, “When are these stupid boys going to grow up and leave us alone?” My frustration was growing.

I was feeling good about myself and proud of my behavior. Sierra began to climb down from the monkey bars; I thought she was going to tell on us.

I had had enough.

Sierra marched right up to me and yelled, “Shut up!” Then to my surprise, with a closed fist and all of her might she popped me right in the nose. I began to cry, I was shocked and it actually hurt, the other girls and boys were also shocked.

I was scared of getting in trouble. I, indeed, got in plenty of trouble at school. I really was just sick of the boys making my girlfriends feel bad about themselves and did not understand why none of my girlfriends would stick up for themselves. When I got home from school that night and had to confess to my parents I was surprised that I did not get punished.

My parents explained to me that although violence was not the answer it was important that I stand up for myself. My mother was a very strong woman. In the time surrounding my bad behavior at school my mother and grandmother were fascinated with the feminist movement. My entire family always told me that I could accomplish anything in life that I wanted to. The women in my family, many times, felt repressed growing up and they were not going to let me feel that way.

Sierra was in detention for the next couple of days, she was not allowed on the playground during recesses. It was as if the one incident changed everything. I was still the leader of my small gang, but I chose to no longer taunt the girls. We played separately and did not acknowledge each other for the entire year.

When I was finally allowed to participate in recess again something had changed. The same teachers supervised us, the same run down playground equipment was still partially intact and the same students were still separated into small groups. As I sat on the monkey bars examining my surroundings it came to me. The boys were not approaching us; they were not plotting a new way to terrorize me and my friends. They played tag on their own portion of the playground and us girls played on the monkey bars.

As a young child all I wanted was to be happy and play with my friends. My brothers were not allowed to pick on me with out getting into a lot of trouble. It was unbelievable to me that the school boys felt that they could treat me and my friends poorly and not get into trouble. Even though I was the only one who was punished for what had happened that day in the school yard, the boys’ behavior changed. I was victorious.


Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage