At least a year later than the other grade school girls, I passed into physical womanhood. It was common in those times to leave information about these things up to chance and peers, and so it was for me. Whether it was anxiety or something genetic, I suffered terribly during menstruation from cramps and nausea, crawling from my bed to the bathroom to throw up, until I reached my mid 20's and my first pregnancy.

The hormone changes also brought first love, first romance, first connection with boys as tentative men, their muscles bulking up, their chins darkening with new beards, their quick glances. The country is a fertile place for such imaginings with very black nights and long silences, intense scents and visual pleasures. Country boys grow into responsibility early by necessity, instinctively gearing towards the family they must create to sustain the farms.

My two-room country schoolhouse was replaced by a new one-story brick building with two grades to a room. In the girls' bathroom there I first heard about menstruation. In the boiler room I received my first kiss in the grip of a boy who kissed every girl in school. I had a best friend who was as tall as I. Rosalie was a true farm girl. She had a high-school age brother who was in love with a prom queen. He was a prom king. They were royalty from an older age than we could imagine. We hid in a closet to scout their behavior, trying to learn the rules.

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