Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday Memory

Did I ever tell you about my Kindergarten and early elementary days?

I attended kindergarten in the little mill town of Milstead, Georgia. where my father had lived his entire life. The school was on a hill across the street from the house we lived in when I was a baby, but several blocks from where we lived when I was 4. At that time children could start state-supported Kindergarten if they would be 5 before the end of the calendar year. Since my birthday is in late November, I got to start at age 4; and throughout my school years, I was always among the youngest students in my class.

My older sister and I walked up Elm Street each morning, past our grandparents' home on Main Street, and across the ball field at the end of Main Street to get to the school. This seemed like a very long walk to me, although it was only 3 or 4 blocks.

One of my most vivid memories of kindergarten is of nap time. I can call up a visual and auditory memory of the classroom and our procedures surrounding naptime. The teacher would call us by groups to "go to the basement." (Our bathroom was in the basement of the building, so children asked permission to go to the “basement” rather than the “bathroom” or “restroom.” It was years before I quite realized that “basement” was not a synonym for “bathroom.” ) Anyway, at naptime, after each child made his/her visit to the "basement", we each collected our rolled-up mats, spread them out on the floor where the teacher directed, and lay down until we were told we could get up.

Naptime seemed to be difficult for some students, and the teacher had to repeatedly tell some to be quiet and to be still; but even then I loved to daydream, which is what I did during nap time. I didn't sleep but I would lie there quietly and imagine. I planned and envisioned activities for after school, for the coming summer, and for life in the distant future. Some of these plans and activities were likely and some were highly unlikely to ever take place. Sometimes during naptime I did what I still do today when I lie down to sleep -- replay scenarios from recent encounters and revise them to turn out more advantageously or more admirably. I don't remember ever being bored or getting into trouble during naptime, and I was sometimes sorry when the teacher said it was time to get up.

I also remember falling out of a swing on the playground during my Kindergarten year. In my childish memory I rode the swing in an arc over the top bar and fell out when the swing reached the height of its motion. I suspect that the truth is somewhat less dramatic. I only suffered a skinned leg and a few minutes of attention from the school nurse, so it couldn't have been as I remember it.

I remember very little about the academics of Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third Grades. I know I became a good reader and always loved school, so it must have been a positive experience. During Kindergarten through 3rd grade, I was a shy child and anxious to please. Our parents had always told us that if we got a “whipping” at school, we would get another one when we got home. Being the quiet, well-behaved child that I was, I did not worry about that; but I sometimes cringed and suffered in sympathy with classmates who were disciplined at school by receiving a designated number of “licks” with a ruler on their outstretched palms.

After we moved away during the first month of my 4th grade year, my teacher and classmates sent me a packet of letters telling me they missed me. This letter-writing exercise was done, I am sure, largely to reinforce their lessons on correct form for friendly letters; but receiving that packet of letters from my former classmates was an exciting event for me.

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