When I’m feeling old or sad or particularly vulnerable and need a reminder of my life as a whole and not as a moment of chaos, I rummage through my plastic storage container filled with every ticket stub, birthday card, love letter, newspaper clipping, and prom corsage from the last 40 years. The past isn’t such a bad place to visit when you need a pick-me-up.
Making me smile and feel like I’m on the right track: my kindergarten and first-grade report cards. They were in an envelope my dad gave me a few years ago that I’d casually tossed in the plastic bin thinking one day when I had time I’d look through what was in it.
That time was last Sunday. And given what my teacher, Miss Strom, wrote about me in 1969, it probably is true that everything I know I learned in kindergarten.
“Lynn is a bright girl who asks good questions. She is enthusiastic about learning; has a long attention span; and spends a good deal of time with books. She is a good listener and uses this quality advantageously to add to general knowledge.”
I confess to really enjoying nap time in kindergarten, but obviously I was doing some learning, too. What I remember most about kindergarten was a pudgy boy named Chucky who sported a crew cut and chased me around the alphabet circle when the teacher wasn’t watching. If I’m pretty much the same person I was in kindergarten, chances are so is Chucky. Girls, you know the kind of man I’m talking about.
“Lynn does very acceptable work with art materials.”
I loved glue. I used to rub it on my fingers, let it dry, and then peel it off. I’d also put a dot of Elmer’s on a piece of paper, let it crust over, then pop it like a zit. That was the extent of my artistic creativity, I’m afraid.
“She follows well in a singing group and enjoys music. She catches on quickly to songs, fingerplays and poems.”
After nap time, my teacher would sit in the middle of the alphabet circle with her guitar and sing to us. I particularly liked the “B-I-N-G-O” song about the farmer who had a dog. I displayed my anal tendencies even then, concentrating hard so I would clap at all the appropriate times. “B-I-N-clap-clap…and Bingo was his name-o.”
* Personal message to all kindergarten teachers: musical chairs is the most cruel game you can make an anal retentive kindergartener play. Trust me.
“Lynn displays leadership qualities, respects the rights of others, exhibits courteous behavior, and is accepted by the other children. She has self-confidence in what she is doing and has acceptable emotional control.”
Yeah, that pretty much sums me up at age 44. I don’t get it right all the time, and I certainly have many times of self-doubt, but I had that in kindergarten, too. I faked it well, even then.
I don’t readily remember most things from when I was 5 years old, but the emotionally uncertain stuff seems to be embedded in the brain cells that don’t die. I suspect that’s the part for all of us that sticks the most. I know I played with friends, rode my bike, watched TV, memorized Beatles songs and interacted with my family. I remember bits and pieces of those moments, but it’s the deeply emotional stuff I remember most: how I felt being chased around the alphabet circle (I really hated Chucky) and how I wanted so badly to get the song right so my teacher would think I was good and worthy. I remember the feeling of escaping into books and feeling so smart for having learned a new word or idea.
This report card made me see how I’ve always been about self-control, and that I’ve always desired just a little love and acceptance from the world. Hasn’t always worked out that way. But in our joys and pain, that’s what makes the girl from kindergarten and the grandma I am now BFFs.
Next blog…..my first-grade report card.