Li Dongjiu 李冬玖 (?) was the principal at 二小 when I moved back to Beijing from TJ, in 1974. She was small n trim who sported 阴阳头 only half head of hair was cut, courtesy of her former students during the Cultural Revolution but nevertheless came to guild us with steel hands.
It’s was a cold February morning, I went to school with 皮球阿姨 Auntie Spalding to see her. I just came back from Tianjin where I was in the middle of my fourth grade. Back then, each city in China had it’s own system. Beijing had winter starting and Tianjin had summer starting of school cycle. One look at me – FOB from Tianjin – Madam Li announced slowly,
“You can start from the fourth grade.”
Was she actually considering to put me in third grade ?? I wondered.
Due to Mom’s suicide, I’ve been alternating schools between Beijing and Tianjin, and had skipped the second grade in TJ due to no hukou. I wasn’t pleased to go to 4th grade, again even I had not finished it yet. Timidly, I asked if I could try fifth grade instead, worrying that I’d still in primary school when I turned 20! Not before reminded me that Tianjin’s kind of, well, not on par with the capital, she eventually agreed to two weeks trial.
Fortunately it was a cake work for me. So I stayed with the fifth grade. I was so worried that I would never graduated from primary school. Good thing that I ASKED.