A few weeks ago my sister in law suggested that I begin a new blog tradition of “Friday flashback”. I’d forgotten about it until about 10 minutes ago, so even though it’s really Sunday, let’s just pretend I wrote this on Friday- I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t start a new tradition by screwing it up!!!
The first day of Kindergarten:
By some weird fluke of chance and/or school policy, I was able to start Kindergarten as a 4 year old. Well, I guess I should qualify that. Chronologically I was 4 years old but socially and in maturity I was probably about 2 and a half. I had some pretty severe separation anxiety, which had made church and preschool the joys of my parents’ existence. How they thought Kindergarten would be any different I have no idea. They tried to psyche me up with all the “big girl school” references, but I still wanted no part of it. Emotionally I may have been immature, but mentally I was no dummy. School equaled the loss of freedom, and this was a 13 year sentence in prison I wanted no part of. Once it started, it was never going to end.
The one part of school that I was minutely excited for was the bus. I had seen my sister and cousin leave on it every day and since it always brought them home to me what seemed just a little while later (I had absolutely no concept of time), I figured it couldn’t be all that bad. On the first day as we waited at the end of the driveway for the bus, my grandma walked over from her house to give my mom moral support (plus, I think they anticipated that physical force was going to be necessary- I was a big girl even then). Soon we saw the big yellow bus coming up the road. My mom jumped in with the “It will be okay, it’s just a few hours, be a big girl” speech that she had been giving me for months, but I ignored her and hoped that my silent treatment would make her feel so guilty that she'd see the error of her ways and take me back inside. It didn't work. Before I knew it the bus had pulled up and opened its door.
Resigning myself to the fact that I'd lost the battle, I walked up the bus all by myself (remember, this was the part I hadn’t actually talked myself out of, plus the grand, stoic, martyred climb up the stairs appealed to my dramatic side), and the minute I sat down on those hard utility brown benches I knew that something was wrong. Well, something was wrong besides the fact that my mother didn’t want me home with her anymore and she was giving me away to strangers. The guy driving the bus was different than the man who had picked up my sister and cousin for the last two years. And they were driving in the wrong direction! I may have hated the “big girl” school, but I had been there enough times to know that the school they pulled up in front of a few minutes later was not the same as the one I had dreaded attending all summer. All the other kids on the bus fought and climbed over each other to get in the aisles, but I stayed put, frozen to my seat. The bus driver and bus aides both asked me why I wasn’t getting off, but I didn’t say a word. My silent treatment had changed from being anger induced to fear. I was literally frozen with terror.
You see, in my immature and anxiety riddled mind, the bus ride to this hulking, unknown school had just confirmed every fear I had about being sent off to school. My mom was trying to get rid of me. She liked my little brother better, the blond angel who was always cute and funny, and never got spanked for anything. Of course she wanted to be alone with him all day! And then there was my older sister. She was quieter and less obvious in the family dynamics, but that only made her adored by everyone she met. She was never sent to some obscure school from whence she would not return. I figured that they were going to keep me here because I was the naughty child- the one who made big messes and broke things, who convinced her siblings to do things that they would never think of on their own and would get them in trouble, and the one everyone said was so “precocious” (I still hate that word- it’s just a nicer way of saying “brat”). It was all clear now, this whole school ruse. Those $#@^#!*@ were getting rid of me!
I figured if I sat there long enough, they’d be forced to bring in the big guns (aka some random school person- remember I was 4 and had no concept of leadership tiers), and they would call the police who would take me home and make my parents feel extremely guilty for trying to get rid of me. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong. The big guns did come, in the form of the principal and the Kindergarten teachers, but instead of comforting me and sending out an Amber alert (I know they weren’t invented yet, but it’s the only allusion I can come up with to illustrate how I was feeling), they just discussed which class they should send me to and which of the as yet unidentified students on the roll I could be. If I had been a little smarter and a lot less stubborn, I would have opened my mouth to tell them my name and all my vital stats and cleared up the situation easily, and yet I sat. Completely mute. While they wondered if I was Jessica or Allison.
Just as they had decided to take me into one of the Kindergarten classes until they “straightened” everything out (seriously, how did these people run an entire school???), my mom and my grandma pulled into the parking lot where the bus had stopped. I was so happy to see them. I forgot every bad thing I had thought about my family as together they explained that my “real” bus had arrived just a few minutes after they had sent me on the now-obviouly wrong bus, so they had driven around to all the local Elementary schools until they found me. I felt somewhat vindicated as I noticed that my mom had actually been crying. She had felt so bad about sending me on the wrong bus that she was almost frantic- that’s why grandma had to drive.
As we got in the car to return home, I remember thinking that this disastrous first day of school wasn’t so bad after all. There was no way my mom would even think of sending me to Kindergarten again after the trauma I had been through. I mean, how do you overcome those emotional scars, right? But then grandma pulled up to the curb of the REAL school. No way- I could not believe them. Did they hate me, or just unwittingly enjoy causing me pain? They were actually making me go through with this school crap! Hadn’t that morning’s events taught them anything? School just wasn’t meant to be. And yet here they were, forcing me out of the car. And to make my degradation even more acute, there was my entire class waiting outside for me. You see, the “other” school had called this school and told them what had happened, so my “real” teacher decided it would be nice for the entire class to wait outside for me to arrive.
Because being late and mortified in front of your entire class is a great way to start your school career. Oh, and I also chose that moment to throw the fit of a life time. The crying, wailing, kicking, hitting and flailing kind of fit.
Needless to say, my mom spent most of the first day of Kindergarten in the class with me, trying to get me to settle down. From that day forward, I cried every day at school. Every. Single. Day. Not on the bus- strangely, although it was the cause of my first day’s trauma, I resumed my strange acceptance of the mode of transportation that delivered me to my personal hell. But the minute I stepped foot onto the school ground it was water works time.
I have to give my mom credit- despite the fights and the drama, she dutifully sent me to school every day. I can’t imagine how relieved she must have been when I started first grade and some how made peace with the whole “school” thing.
But 28 years later I still take a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that this is the one and only memory that I will be able to hold against her for the rest of her life. What a perfect guilt trip- "you sent me on the wrong bus on the first day of school!" She’s lucky I’m the totally well balanced and issue-free person I am today :)
Mom- I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!