Hurry up, Kent, you don t want to be late for your first day of school, mom called as I was eating my blueberry muffin. I picked up my muffin and bag and headed toward her voice in the hall. I sure didn t want to miss any of my first day at Hair-gee House, or Heritage House, as the adults called it. Hair-gee House was a former residence that was converted into a preschool and Kindergarten for 3, 4,and 5 year olds. The building, which seemed immense to me at the time, was white with a large porch. The side play yard was huge with play equipment of all types and great oak trees that produced delightful corns.
The acorns could be used for throwing, collecting, or cracking open. There were jungle gyms, swing sets, seesaws, and other toys, once painted in bright reds, blues, and yellows. I cherish the memories that I still reflect upon now and again. I remember being late for school a lot, probably because I was always in my own world and difficult for my mother to keep up with. She d drop me of at the front door, and I d run up to the front, still holding half a muffin. Miss Virginia, a stately older lady with a deep, frightening voice would open the front door for me.
All Southern children address women, without a care to the lady s marital status or feminist views, Miss. Well, hello Kent! , she d bellow, which only sent me racing for my class in the back of the school as fast as my little legs would carry me. As I entered the door to a room full of 15 hyperactive 3 year olds, the chemical smell of mimeographed paper filled the room. I still love the scent of that wet white paper with purple drawings. I still have a fondness for the fuzzy violet letters on slightly damp paper versus the crisp, dry Xerox copies of today.
We were always warned not to touch the royal purple carbon copy that rested in the trash bin, lest we soil our hands. No kid could resist that temptation. We would always end up touching it, getting the ink smeared on hands, clothes, and any recently cleaned surface. I loved learning our alphabet in the morning. A,B,C,… was my favorite song in 1973, quickly replaced by Eric Clapton s Lay Down Sally the following year. The sing-songy melody makes it easy for children to pick up on and actually learn something. The song seemed to put me in a great mood as we ang the letters as loudly as all 3 year olds do.
The letters were printed on bright cards with an object representing each of them. These cards were placed on the top of the walls around the room. Miss Bobette would then get out the fairy, a flashlight with glitter all over it. She d turn out the lights and we d yell out the letters in random order as the fairy illuminated each one. Wild with excitement from that, we d all march around the room singing the alphabet song. When it rained, we d gather around the window and look at the drops hit the pavement with little splashes.
Casting aside all political correctness in 1976, Miss Bobette would say, Those are little Indians dancing outside. We screamed with delight, and then frowned upon realizing there would be no outside recess. There was a terrible snowstorm in Arkansas that year, so we stayed home a lot. But when the roads were safe enough to attend, we d watch her cut out beautiful, magical snowflakes. We tried our hand at snowflakes with less satisfactory results. Four-year-old class seemed to have a lot of hand-eye coordination. Everyone remembers learning to write with those thick pencils with a rubber ball on top.
Art was my favorite time of the day. Going over to my basket and retrieving that huge box of crayons, I felt as if I were in heaven. Binney and Smith may not know the excitement that they create in children when they first open that box of 64 colors, but it is priceless. I would carefully open my box, inspect the crayons to make sure that they were in order, and smell that wonderful aroma of wax. I couldn t wait to use my palette of colors to create another masterpiece! I was obsessed with monkeys, bees, and any creature that flew. I would draw endless scribbles of these creatures.
When the teacher asked us to explain the pictures we drew of what we wanted to be when we grew up, I proudly exclaimed A monkey with wings! I had just seen the Wizard of Oz, and was enchanted with the outlandish beasts. Recess was another highlight of any child s day. Because it was a small school, with less than 50 students, 3, 4, and 5 year old classes took recesses at the same time. The Kindergartners or Kiddergardners as we called them, were bigger and faster, so they would lay claim to they large play equipment first. Oh, the thrill of recess, after being seated for what seemed like hours on end!
We ran and chased and chatted garble until we were exhausted before going back to class. I remember getting in trouble at school for the first time when I was four. I was angry at Heather Norsworthy for getting onto the swings before I did. To retaliate, I spit on her. This made her angry also, promptly running off to tell Miss Virginia. I knew that I had done something but I didn t know that it was bad until I heard my name called across the school yard. KENT!!! , she roared, Come here right now and apologize to Heather! I ran in the other direction to hide behind a tree.
There s no way this wicked witch an find me here, I mused. Boy, was I wrong. She snatched me up and took me to Heather where I apologized, received a stern lecture on the virtues of not spitting, and went home with a note pinned to my shirt. Oh those damned notes! In the 4-year old class, I remember learning to tie my shoes. We had boards with a picture of two shoes with real laces crossing in and out of the holes. We practiced for what seemed to be months on those boards. After many nights rehearsing with my parents, I was ready for the first test of many in my long academic career.
I remember being very nervous as Miss Kay called my name. I anxiously left my desk and walked to her desk. I looked at the board and couldn t remember what to do. She helped me with the first laces, and left the other shoe to me. Proudly, I tied correctly the knot. I then yanked it apart with one jerk of the lace and beamed at my accomplishment. Her smile told me that I had done well. I walked back to my seat with a look of confidence on my face. I had done it! Because I m a sentimental person, I drive past Heritage House sometimes when I go back to England.
The school is larger now because of additions, yet it looks much smaller than when I was a kid. The playground equipment, once so cheerful, has oxidized to pastels over the years. The kids playing in the yard have different faces, yet they are still the same kids that have always attended. It s amazing to think that at one time, that school was my whole world. Life seemed to be so much simpler then. I had no responsibilities, no deadlines, no bills, not worries. When I was a child, my job was to play hard, and I was good at it. Now, I m about to graduate from college, and I live outside my parent s house. Perspective is truly subjective.