UNLESS THE COWBOY THING WORKS OUT

My father drops me off and just leaves me there in front of the huge brick building. Little me, standing on the wide sidewalk, autumn leaves swirling around my ankles. I’ve arrived but I have no idea what I’m supposed to do next. I’m four and starting kindergarten.

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Some weird timing things made me the youngest kid in the class. And the smallest.

All the other kids are bigger, taller, bulkier. I will always be the shortest or second shortest until high school, which is a long way off.

I wait for help. Eventually someone collects me, asks me my name, herds me towards a group of other little kids. Some of them are crying and all of them look lost. If a parent stuck around to watch over us, I never saw them.

Aldrich Street autumn

1951 was not the year for coddling kids. When the time to leave the nest came, mama birds gave a push and out you fell, tiny wings flailing.

Kindergarten was in a huge room on the ground floor. They didn’t want the wee ones getting run down by the bigger ones. Or getting lost in hallways.

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The ceilings are miles overhead and the windows go to the ceiling. Miss O’Rourke has to use a hook on a long pole to open or close them. I wonder why they don’t have normal windows.

The teacher looks ancient. Blue eyes behind steel-framed glasses and frizzy grey hair. She’s tall, talks loud … and slow. Everyone in my family talks loud, but no one talks slow.

When nap time comes, we’re supposed to put our blankets on the floor and sleep. I’ve never taken a nap, at least not that I can remember. And I don’t have a blanket. My mother didn’t know I was supposed to bring one. I also don’t have a shoe box for my crayons. All the other kids have one. It won’t be the last time I’m the class oddball.

Worst of all, I don’t have crayons. My mother didn’t know I was supposed to bring crayons.

She’s busy. I got a new sister a few months ago. She cries all the time and mom didn’t have time to come to find out all the stuff all the other kids’ mothers know.

Leaves With Bug 2015

I sit in a chair, very quietly, while everyone naps. Or pretends. I don’t think they’re asleep, but they all lay on the floor and pretend. Mrs. O’Rourke takes that time to write in her notebook.

It’s a long day. I have almost a mile to walk home. My mother doesn’t drive. She doesn’t worry about me. I’ll find my way. It’s just the walk home is long and uphill. I’m tired.

I don’t know why I had to do this. All we did was play with toys. I could have stayed home and played with my own toys.

By the time I know the answer, I’ll be 19, graduating from college. When I learn the answer, it won’t make sense. School will be where I sit around doing things slowly so other kids can catch up with me. Or math, where I have no idea what’s going on. I don’t even know what questions to ask. Who needs that stuff anyhow?

I’m going to be a writer. Unless the cowboy thing works out.

16 thoughts on “UNLESS THE COWBOY THING WORKS OUT

  1. we lived about 8 miles from town. Really isolated. I remember going to kindegarten, utterly clueless as to what it was or why I was in a strange lady’s house with other strange children. It was only for a few hours a few times a week, not so much a kindegarten by todays standards but more a social group. I only recall going there a few times, and then for some reason Mother stopped taking me. It might have been just too long a drive (in those days 8 miles could take forever).

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  2. I don’t remember the very first day of kindergarten, but I do remember the delicious cookies and milk and the really cool toys. I also remember feeling like a big girl because I had to walk home after school, probably close to a mile. But in my case, my mother wasn’t worried because she knew pretty much everyone in every house along the route, and she knew everyone watched out for everyone else’s kids.

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  3. I loved school and the structure. I never went to kindegarten at all. I started school on my 5th birthday, already reading and writing. I was like a sponge with learning. The only thing was starting school on my birthday at the start of the school year. Each year it was the same. We had to walk to and from school on our own – no molly coddling for us. We were lean and fit. Now it is chaos outside the school gates with all the parents dropping their children off in their cars

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    • I liked school because it was better than being home, but I didn’t come into m own socially until college. School was easy, except for math. At least I understood the rules, which was more than I could say for home where I never knew where the next crisis would erupt.

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  4. er. that was me up there under anonymous. Google has been messing with my passwords again. sigh. I ended up in 2nd grade with glasses–I could see better but I was also now “Four Eyes”. sigh.
    Bad enough I had to wear those awful corrective shoes (ox blood red laceups yep) and snowsuits in the winter now i had glasses too. Oh mother just bury me now…

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    • Oh, yeah, the corrective shoes. They made me really popular too. It was fortunate that I lived in books because friends were … well … I wasn’t a popular kid. Until I got to college when everything turned on its head. Apparently being brainy, blind, and a klutz is a killer in elementary school and high school, but can be a plus in college. Especially if you grow a nice pair of breasts.

      I had those snow pants, too. My mother didn’t get the whole concept of “fitting in” as a valid childhood concern.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lol we were a mess. It’s hard sometimes for adults to think on their knees, as it were, and realize that what is important to an adult means nothing to a kid, and what matters a great deal to a very young child is just as serious to them as our concerns are as grownups.

        Mine was as bad, and yeah, they really didnt understand the importance of being part of the herd, not the standout (the one in the bunch that gets picked off by hyenas) in the yellow snowsuit…

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  5. We started learning French in Kindergarten, I didn’t even know there was another country besides Italy and Austria. 🙂
    They threw me out of Kindergarten when I was 5 and I started school. Fun memories I have 🙂

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    • When I was in Kindergarten, they really weren’t sure what to do with us. It was more like a free nursery school, letting kids get used to being in a school setting before they had to actually learn anything. Now, they actually teach things in Kindergarten. Times have changed.

      I was right on the line between starting that year, or the following one. I was really awfully young and very small, but in the end, it didn’t much matter 🙂 I’m here. I made it. Yay.

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  6. my heart aches for that little girl. I was a bit like that too, utterly clueless, just drifting along like a stray breeze, no idea why i was there, what numbers were, and no idea that I was so nearsighted I couldnt even see the blackboard let alone see the printing on it.

    We survive; scarred a bit, but survive.

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    • It was a very long time ago … almost 64 years. Oddly, I was perfectly okay with school, except for (a) sitting still, (b) math, and (c) not being allowed to read instead of those boring lessons. I was also very near-sighted. It was 6th grade before anyone noticed and I got glasses. Before then, I always sat in the first row because I was so short … and SO short-sighted (and didn’t know it).

      My home life was so bad that whatever was wrong with school, it was still an improvement!

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