I hear a lot about anxiety and fear these days. With the new school year started for nearly everyone, the focus is on first day jitters. When I was a little girl, I could hardly wait to get to school: Maybe because my mom tried new things all the time; maybe because my dad came home with stories about new people every day; maybe because Grandpa loved to read and learn about the world; maybe because I had a big sister who always did things first. I loved school before I even got there. School was gonna be great.
My big sister, Deanna did everything first. Dad said that’s because she was born first, so she had a head start. Deanna went to school. I didn’t. Not until the fall after I turned five.
Deanna talked about school a lot. Especially about what happened on The Bus. Deanna and I got on The Bus across the road, right where Terry Lane started. So did Nancy, Deanna’s best friend from across the road. I had the inside of the bus all laid out in my mind’s eye. Deanna talked all the time about who sat in what seat, and what seat she liked best, so I got it in my head that the bus had a bunch of folding chairs lined up, like at the Methodist fish fry on Friday night, except no tables, ‘cause nobody eats on The Bus.
I was wrong about that one. The seats were cushy green benches with the same cushy green backs. The seat backs had metal tube running all around the edge, so a kid could knock a tooth loose if the bus stopped fast, which isn’t all bad, cuz the tooth fairy brought money in exchange for a lost tooth. Course at my house, the tooth fairy got confused on account of all the pillows, and teeth are tinsy-tiny. Sometimes it took the tooth fairy a couple of weeks to find a tooth.
Lots of kids got on the bus, from all over the place: Kids from church, kids from down the road, and a bunch of kids I never saw in my life before. Most every kid was bigger than me; some were almost as big as Mom and Dad. They were the teenagers, like my Aunt Annie. Those kids sat way-way in the back. Everybody knew that was the rule, even me, and nobody even told me about any school rules.
Mike got on at the next stop with his big brother, Bob, and his sister, Diana, same age as Deanna. I knew those guys from church. Next was my best-friend-from-down-the road Betty, and her teenage sister, Lois, and her big brother Bob. Betty sat down next to me. I already knew Betty on account of our moms being in the Extension Club together. Plus, I knew how to call Betty on the telephone: two shorts and a long.
We traveled all over tarnation picking up kids I never saw in my life before. That was so much fun, I almost forgot I was going someplace.
At last we stopped at a big brick building not too far from church. That was the school, right there on School Street, of course. A whole slew of busses dropped us kids off around back, and everyone went in and figured out which room they belonged to.
Kindergarteners, like me, went up the first five stairs, where there were three rooms, one for us, and the rest for teenagers. Other teenagers went up some more stairs. I never knew what was up there, cuz kindergarteners had to stay in our room until it was time to go home again. Another thing that was sorta interesting, was the bathrooms. The teenagers girls had a bathroom right next to the kindergarten room, but kindergarteners could never go in there. We went down the stairs and used the same bathrooms the first through third grade used. Bathrooms were way different at schools than at home. A whole bunch of kids could go at the same time, and about ten girls could wash their hands at the same time, right in the same sink. The toilet paper came out in little sheets, instead of on a roll. One other thing, boys had to use a different bathroom. At home, we just had one bathroom, so everyone used the same one. Course, nobody went in there when Dad was in there. Dad’s need to be alone lots more than Moms.
Mrs. Brown was my teacher. I met Daylene, and another Betty, and Jeanne and Connie. Connie was going to be my best-friend-ever, she went to my church, too, and had lots of brothers and sisters, just like me, even one in first grade, like Deanna. Connie had a brother in third grade. Between her and Betty, I was gonna learn some dirty jokes, but that was later on when we went to school all day. In kindergarten, we colored and counted and learned a song about the ABCs, and listened to stories, and went to recess. Recess had swings, like we had at home, only hanging from big A-shaped bars instead of from a tree, and other stuff, like slides and monkey bars, that I never saw before. Daylene was super good at the monkey bars, cuz she could walk over to the school any old day, she lived that close.
The best thing about kindergarten was the boys. I loved the boys: Walter and Doug and George and Warren, and Dale. I kissed every one of them. Except Dale, he always got away. Boys were funner than all get out. I had a baby brother at home, who was just a tinsy bit of fun, but mostly we had girls at my house.
After that Zeke the janitor, brought us chocolate milk to drink, except for Doug, he had to have plain old white milk cuz he was allergic to chocolate. The milk came in tinsy bottles, one each and no cream on top, like our milk at home had. After milk. we took a rest on the rugs we brought from home. Keeping still during rest time was the only hard part about school. I never did get used to that rule.
Teenagers waited outside the kindergarten room, so they could use it after we left on our bus. Teenagers were super-tired out people, always leaning against stuff and putting one foot on the wall, and the girls always laughed with their hand over their mouths.
Deanna never told me how much fun it was. I was never going to get tired of all the new stuff at school: new people to tell Dad about, new things to see and do, plus stories from Mrs. Brown. And so many new rules to learn, too. It was like a giant puzzle wrapped up in fun.
Holy smokes, school was the best adventure ever. I wished I could live at the school and never go home. Course then I would miss the school bus ride home, and I would never be able to tell Bonita how much fun I had. Bonita had to wait two more years to go to school. I did everything before she did, cuz I was born before her.
I wonder why I am rarely afraid of new things. Did I lack the gene for panic and anxiety? Is it because adventure trumps fear? Maybe my environment was so safe, it never occurred to me to worry.
What are your memories of your first day of school?