“Now I’m ready!” said Henry.
from: Look Our Kindergarten, Here I Come!
written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1999
I was the Kindergarten kid who cried. Not every day, and not loud, wracking sobs. But I missed being home with my mom and little brother. I was sad at school.
Then my teacher, Miss Kimack (accent on the second syllable), introduced us to music. We’d sit in a circle on the floor and copy-clap rhythms she clapped for us. I excelled at clapping. She told me in front of the whole class.
And in first grade, we brought in school supplies. Nothing smells better than a new box of Crayolas, except that minty smell of white paste. It came in a jar with its own built-in little brush stuck to the lid.
We had a special art teacher who visited our class once a week and encouraged us to draw, paint and model clay. I made a duck. All our projects were dried and the next week we painted them. I painted mine white. No feet, no orange bill, not even dots for the eyes. Just white. It was kinda abstract, even though I didn’t know the term, yet. When I brought my duck home, proud as punch I was, my mom asked me what I had made. When I told her “a duck” she smiled. The conversation was repeated when my sister saw it, and then again when my dad came home from work. I didn’t think my family appreciated that duck, but it sat around in a place of honor as a paperweight for many years.
Third grade brought with it a finger painting incident that I’d rather not go into right now. It required a call to the custodian and a trip to the nurse’s office.
School was not all art and recess, though. Real learning went on, except for arithmetic, which was always really hard. I learned how to spell arithmetic way before I learned to do it well. Social Studies was interesting and Science was mostly fun, but my favorite time was Language Arts, especially reading.
Now my grandkids are going off to their first days. They all like school and each one is smarter than anything. They will bring home their own versions of ducks, some more abstract than others. All will hold places of honor. That’s how I raised my girls. They know how to appreciate the important things.
The last time I remember seeing my duck, the color had faded to a pale grayish yellow. My mom offered it to me as I was getting ready to go off to college, but I was ready to let go. She was too.