Monday was yet another momentous day here in the McKenna household. My oldest daughter officially became a kindergartener and Hannah was very excited for the occasion.
I am pretty sure that the main source of her excitement was because she finally got to ride on the school bus. For the 3+ years that we have been living in this house, the bus has been taunting her on almost a daily basis. It would roll by in the morning, stop right on our corner and a handful of very happy children would hop up the stairs and be whisked away to a magical place called “school” while she would then be picked up by carpool to go to her boring old preschool.
So on Monday, she finally got her wish and she took the bus to kindergarten. By all accounts, it was relatively uneventful. She made some new friends, saw a few old friends and got to have recess. She got to show off her new backpack. There was no crying or whining or complaining about not wanting to go back the next day, so I think this kindergarten thing is here to stay.
In honor of Hannah successfully navigating her first day of kindergarten, I would like to share my most harrowing memories from kindergarten. (Because in the end, everything here comes back to me!)
1) Reading is boring
One wouldn’t think that reading would ever be a traumatic experience, especially for someone who was in school for so long that he won’t reach the point in life where he has not been in school for more years than he was in school until he is 42. That is a lot of books read and not nearly enough of them were fun reads. And it all started in kindergarten.
I started kindergarten as a 4 year old. At some point during the year, my teacher (I think it was her, although it may have been someone else) found out that I could read. I didn’t find this to be all that surprising or unusual, but the school did. So much so that one day, they asked me to read for them. Which seemed all fine and dandy, except they wanted me to do it during recess. I was not particularly happy about that, because recess was one of the best parts of my day.
On the selected day, when everyone else went to recess, I was pulled aside to a different room. I remember my kindergarten classroom very well and wherever this room was it was nothing like my class room. It was rather small and somewhat darker. Almost like a reading room in a library. There were no bright overhead lights, but instead a lamp in the room. It actually was rather cozy. I remember them handing me a book called Stone Soup and I started to read out loud to the person.
I can’t tell you a thing about the book, except that the main character was a mouse. (Apparently the mouse was making stone soup, but I can’t verify that. I suppose the Interwebs could…) What I do distinctly remember is trying to read that book as fast as I possibly could. I was reading my little heart out with the hope that I would finish the book with enough time to get out to recess. Unfortunately, it was a rather long book so that not only did I not finish the book, but I also missed recess.
The strangest thing about it was that I don’t recall anything come of this event. After that I went on to being the same kindergartener that I was before Stone Soup. It was like I was some kind of never-before-seen animal that the school wanted to capture, run through some tests, observe and then release back into the wild. Either that, or I was abducted by the nerdiest aliens ever.
1) Et tu, Brute?
Like most kindergarteners, I quickly established a core group of friends. One of my best friends at the time was Kevin. We were good friends and did a lot of things together. (Although technically, if I had to name a “best” friend, it would have been Jason. We sat together at the Green Table. But I digress…) He lived a few blocks away from me and I would frequently spend time at his house, including the time that his mom said that we couldn’t play together until Kevin finished his homework. I was already done with mine and he was moving too slow, so I remember finishing it quickly for him so we could get to playing. But that didn’t end so well, as we got caught. Not sure if it was of this incident or not, but despite being a nerd, I never again did anyone’s homework for them.
Like all close friends, we had our ups and downs. One day, Kevin stabbed me in the back. Literally. Well, it was more like the neck.
One day, we were in class and I remember Kevin walking past me, pencil in hand. I stayed focused on whatever I was doing, but I did hear Kevin grinding his pencil with the pencil sharpener.
I remember the sharpening stopping and then about 30 seconds later, a sharp stabbing pain on the right side of my neck. Kevin, for no particularly good reason, has stabbed me in the neck with his freshly sharpened pencil. I remember him playing it off as an accident, but I don’t think that excuse fully flew with the teacher.
I don’t think he got suspended or anything for it (could you imagine the uproar that would go along with something like that now?) and there was no ill will between us after that. Although, we didn’t stay best friends much past kindergarten. We ended up going to different schools for first grade and we drifted apart. Ironically, we both ended up going to the same Catholic high school in Chicago, although he was in the grade behind me at that point. We ended up becoming pretty good friends and he even set me up his new best friend, who ended up my girlfriend during my senior year and my prom date. Maybe the stabbing was some kind of loyalty test?
The one part of this incident that I still think about on a routine basis is the fact that after the stabbing, I didn’t bleed. The only thing that came out was a small amount of clear fluid, with a yellow tint. (That was my kindergarten description. My doctor voice would call it “serous fluid”. Warning, the rest of this paragraph is going to be dorky doctor talk.) To this day, I am still trying to figure out exactly what structure the pencil struck in my neck to cause this. In the end, I usually conclude that he must have hit a lymph vessel, but that doesn’t sound altogether plausible because lymph vessels are not very big. Then again, I was never very good at anatomy. Maybe those aliens who abducted me replaced my human blood with some other fluid for a brief period of time. The world may never know.
3) The teacher was right, I wasn’t going to die
While on the surface I might appear to be a hardened and grizzled adult, in fact I am a huge softy. With a penchant for crying. I cry at movies, during certain songs on the radio and for dozens of other reasons. I am not as bad as I used to be, when I would break into tears for things that were not exactly the end of the world. There was the time at a Christmas function where I cried because I didn’t like the present I was being offered. (It was a nice little watch, but I already had a watch. Obviously. Did I mention I was like 8 or 10 years old at the time? Wait, forget I said that.) I cried after at least 2 different athletic competitions that the coach did let me play in. (Ugh. Let’s just move on.) And then there was the time in kindergarten that I locked myself in the bathroom attached to the classroom and started bawling. At least then I had a good excuse. A kid in the class convinced me I was going to die.
One day we were sitting around talking about what we had done the previous evening after school. I don’t remember having mentioned to anyone that my family and I had eaten at McDonald’s for dinner the night before, but I must have. (Either that or this kid saw us there and was just waiting for an opportune time to set his trap.) At some point, one of the kids in the class (I don’t recall his exact name) breaks in to the conversation and casually says “Didn’t you guys hear? They said on the news last night that McDonald’s has snakes in their food and anyone who ate it is going to die.” Commence running to the bathroom.
I don’t remember exactly what I started thinking about in that bathroom, but I can say that it is the only time in my life that I have seriously mulled my mortality. I truly thought the end was coming. And I wasn’t exactly happy about it. Luckily, the teacher (Mrs. Vanderburgh, she was the best) got in the bathroom and assured me that I most certainly was not going to die. And wouldn’t you know it, she was right.
In the end, I survived kindergarten and was the better for it. I was only at that school for one year and then went to a whole different school, trading in the aliens, stabbers and liars for a different set of colorful characters. Man, I miss those days.