I’ve been the new kid many times, including moves to new states and one totally foreign country (the USA), but the most memorable experience was when I was 9 years old. We had just moved to Vermont, and I fell instantly in love with the Green Mountain State. Being an outdoorsy sort of girl, I spent many hours exploring my new backyard, which included acres and acres of splendid woods behind our house. I decided that I wanted to know the names of all the flora and fauna (and rocks) I encountered, so I was busy most days engaged in my new mission.

Regi Robnett found iron pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, in the middle of a patch of poison ivy – just in time for the first day of school in her new hometown. Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

One day I thought I had hit the motherlode! Deep in the woods I found what I thought was gold – it sparkled like gold, anyway, a large rock that also looked like it also contained granite and onyx. I was thrilled, as I immediately dreamt of riches. Excitedly I carried the 10-pound rock home to show it off. My older brother just snickered and told me that what I had was certainly not gold, but what they call “fool’s gold.

It turned out I was the “fool” (though I still have the rock, which along the way somehow got broken in half – maybe my brother took the other half, so he could tell the story, too). One of the types of flora I had not yet identified in my scientific inquiry was poison ivy. My precious rock was in the middle of a humongous patch, and I hadn’t a clue! Consequently, I soon had a serious (gross) rash on all the exposed parts of my body – including my face!

Talk about horrible timing – I was supposed to start at my new school in just a few days. My parents tried to talk me out of going to school the first day because they knew how utterly unappealing I was to look at. I was a stubborn kid though and could not be talked out of going (perhaps because of the fear of missing out). Nonetheless that first day I hung my head in shame, and my classmates said I would not look up or say anything; I suppose I was embarrassed and just wanted them to ignore me.

The other kids in Brownsville, Vermont, in the four-room schoolhouse that housed eight grades, were curious but not mean about my malady. I don’t remember exactly what transpired, but I know I am still friends (50-plus years later) with many of my schoolmates, so they must have gotten over the grotesque nature of my face quickly. I have a feeling that my bestie since then – Jyl – probably got me chuckling by making a joke about farting or some other silly thing that preoccupied us at the time. The poison ivy became my legacy as the strange new girl. Jyl, as always, has been able to make me laugh; she’s the best kind of friend. Beautiful Vermont and Vermonters rock!

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