Thursday, May 21, 2009


Some things happen in your life that seem simple at the time but can drastically shape you as a person. They form how you think, how you approach problems in life, and what makes you the person you've become. Seldom is it one occurrence. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes many events to form a person. These events are often remembered with a clarity as if it were yesterday while some lay buried in obscurity. Though well over a half a century has passed, how I handle tasks, what I place importance on, and what I think will earn approval, all were reinforced that first day of school.

I desperately wanted to go to school since I was old enough to want. My brothers disappeared daily into this thing called school. They had grand tales to tell at the end of the day. They could do wonderful things like making marks on paper that others understood. They could say words out loud as they deciphered the marks on the pages of a book. I wanted this skill, I wanted to learn. I wanted to be like them.

My parents tried to enter me in school when I was 5 but my birthday came too late in the year so I had to wait till I was six. I was heart broken and demanded "Why?" till my parents wanted to throttle me. I was offered kindergarten but I thought that was for babies and refused. Crayons and finger painting were not for me. I wanted the real stuff. That decision was not a good one as I was to learn. Finally I turned the magic six. If only time passed so slowly today.

I had my nice new vaccination scar, new shoes, new undies, and a new dress. I literally dragged my mother down the halls wanting to find my room. Mother knelt before me at the door to my room asking me if I were OK and said if I needed, she would wait for me in the hall. I saw all the desks, the black board and the huge woman who was my teacher and all I wanted was to find my desk and get busy. I had learning to do.

The teacher welcomed me and took me to my desk. It was wonderfully big and my feet did not touch the floor. My fingers traced the engraved initials on the desk top of the generations of children who had sat here before me. There was a very fat pencil, a square eraser and a piece of lined paper waiting for me. All around me children were crying, some out loud, others sniffling , all looking miserable. Not me, I was proud and ready to go. Outside the door, my Mother was doing my crying for me. Her baby was leaving the nest while "baby" just wanted to fly.

After calling the roll,( good thing I wasn't first called, for I didn't know to answer "Present") the teacher led us in singing the ABC's. This I knew and my little voice rang out. Then abruptly, with out explanation,the teacher said, "All right children, take up you pencils and paper I want you to copy your letters. When you are through and need more paper, raise your hand."

Thinking this was just too easy, I started making the lines, crosses, squiggles and circles on the paper like I had done at home. I worked furiously and excitedly. Soon my paper was full though the other kids were still slowly working away. Up went my hand. Not sure if I were a genius or an idiot, she came to my desk and took up my paper. Oops, idiot.

"These aren't letters." she said, " This is nothing but chicken scratch."

Well even the kids who were still crying stopped long enough to laugh at that.

"Didn't you go to kindergarten?" she asked, knowing the answer.

"No ma'am." I squeaked.

"Well if you had you would have known what to do." My first lesson in "should a done."

She pointed to the top of the black board where a banner of the alphabet was displayed. The kindergarten kids all ready knew how to print, for me it was a daunting task . Guess there was more to kindergarten than crayons and finger painting.

"Copy all of those carefully, starting with A." she said.

We had just sang the ABC's so my light bulb moment told me,"So that is what an A looks like?" I sang in my head as I copied A-B-C but then I got confused. Where was the letter "lomenap"? Thought I'd save that question for at home. I had entertained the class enough for one day.

The teacher stood over me as I tried to reproduce what I saw. Satisfied with my attempts, she went back to her desk. I didn't stay in the lines very well but I did copy the banner fairly accurately. Knowing I was behind the others, I worked as quickly as I could. The page filled once more and again all around me, kids were still working.

The teacher was strolling up and down the isles looking to see if there were any more chicken scratchers lurking. She stood over my shoulder looking at my completed paper. She picked it up and I braced for what was coming. She placed a clean sheet in front of me and softly said,"Much better Patricia."

Funny how praise is soft while condemnation rings like a bell. Kind of like the retraction in the newspaper on page 13 for a goof on page one. Few of the former gigglers heard her, but I did. That was my first praise from an unfamiliar adult, and I loved it. "Chicken scratch" was forgotten, I was on my way to learning.

She had written our names on a piece of paper and told us to copy it till we could spell our names. PATRICIA seemed such a long name as I saw BOB beside me write his name. Anyway, at least now I was learning something.

Lunch came and we were given some orange juice and a sandwich. It was good but the urge to pee (tee-tee as my family called it) was just starting and the orange juice didn't help. When we got back to our seats, the urge was a little stronger. I had all ready scoped out the room and saw no bathroom door. Not knowing how to tell a total stranger about such a private need, I tried to tough it out, but it was a battle a six year old couldn't win..........


  1. Poor baby. I hope you learned quickly how to ask to go!!

  2. kenju
    Lets just say, I can today. Not all things learned in school are academic.

  3. Oh that first day of school. We all have them, don't we? Your cliff-hanger sounds like you were about to learn something even more than the alphabet that day.

  4. Oh no, I hope you didn’t have an accident on your first day! Having had an older brother who taught me the skill of burping, I remember being stunned when my teacher reprimanded me for burping in class. After that, I would get the hiccups trying to suppress them.

  5. Love it. I remembered how I looked forward to 1st day of school. I got to escapte from home. I had the privilege of private kindagarten.

    Had my first best friend in 1st grade...I may just blog about it. She was German and some schoolmates made awful remarks to her, which I did no understand and went home crying. My Mother fortunately was very kind and the girl and I remained friends until she transferred to another elementary school.

  6. robin
    Some things everyone remembers and first day of school is one. We are finally separated from our parents and realize that there is another authority we must answer to for the next 12 plus years. I loved school, once I got past the first day.

    Can you burp "Dixie" like a good southern girl? That was too funny. My brothers tried to teach me but I couldn't learn to burp on command.

    I sure hope you do that post. It sounds like a really neat story. I am so glad you were there for her. Kids can be cruel but then kids like you more than make up for it. You had a cool mom also.

  7. I adore your writing!

    Yes, of course all of us remember the first day of school. Me too, but when our grandchild-girl went to the school the first time, she was very, very glad and said -NOW it's my turn becouse she has had jealous many years to her two elder brothers.

  8. Thanks Blue.
    I so understand your grandaughter. Those were my thoughts exactly.
    The first day of school is one memory we all share. There are millions of stories out there.

  9. Wow! What an incredible memory you have. Sorry to say, it's all a blur for me. This is such an incredible post, beautifully written. As once a teacher of first grade, I loved this. I hope I never called a child's writing chicken scratch.

  10. Kay,
    Thank you so much for following the link. I would be willing to bet big bucks that chicken scratch or any cruel comment was never in your vocabulary.