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.
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.
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.
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.
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.