Kindergarten

I don’t remember my first day of school in Virginia. I attended a kindergarten in a church, Mt. Olivet. I don’t think there were kindergartens in public school where I grew up. I have generally happy memories of kindergarten, however, I do remember being quite traumatized on the days when I got to school and realized that I still had on my bloomer pajama bottoms under my skirt (girls at that time were not allowed to wear trousers). This happened at least a few times and I remember lingering in the bathroom rather than returning to the classroom lest someone realize my secret pajama shame.

I remember enjoying poetry. We wrote out poems on construction paper and illustrated the poems. This I enjoyed and can still see the image of one of these poems about the wind, "Who has seen the wind, neither you nor I…" Illustrating that one was difficult. I remember an image with a lot of gray amorphous wind-shaped scribbling.

The most remarkable thing about kindergarten was that my teacher told my mother I had a vivid imagination and that I should not be inhibited. This momentous piece of advice had the force of turning the ship of my life. My life at home was forever altered as, my mother told my siblings not to inhibit me. I have 6 siblings and to them she might just as well have hung a sign on my back saying “Kick Me”. I had a friend at kindergarten who had a pinafore much like that worn by Alice in Wonderland. I was in awe of this pinafore and wanted one. I simulated a pinafore by wearing 2 skirts. Because I was not to be inhibited, my mother did not intervene. My siblings however did their best to inhibit me on this and in every way possible. In another family wearing 2 skirts might have been considered cute but to a pack of kids in which one has been singled out as special this provided an opportunity to pounce. My creativity proved a big burden. I longed to be normal and fit in.

When 6 children are told that one is 'special' the others are driven to mayhem. All 7 of us wanted to be special. My father worked hard and as an ob/gyn would leave home for hours at the drop of a hat leaving my Mom to be the only one to settle arguments, do laundry, cook, etc. and all with that Betty Crocker bar set in the 50's. There was no time for the more tender, nurturing moments of motherhood like kissing away tears, helping with homework, throwing a ball or playing games. She was overwhelmed with chores and even though she is probably the sweetest woman on this earth, just could not devote the time to each of us that we craved. On the other hand Mom being busy gave all of us children a lot of freedom for mayhem of many sorts. When the weather was good we were outside, mostly in the woods with the 20 or so other kids in the baby boom of our neighborhood. Each mom had a bell to ring to call the children back from where ever they might be and we all recognized our own bell (at this time, kids went out on their own without adults and we wandered everywhere, little kids and big kids with no fear of being kidnapped or molested). With so many kids and all of them wanting special attention, as kids do, and none of us realizing that we could be encouraging and warm-hearted, we were instead competitive and always ready to fight, pounce, torture and tease, albeit, in a wimpy suburban sort of way. For instance, my brothers delighted in putting my cat on the roof which made the cat howl, and me wail. They would hide my favorite stuffed animals. We called each other repugnant names. Sometimes we fought but with 4 brothers, the girls learned to fight with words and each of us learned to use those words to cut as quickly, deeply and swiftly as possible. Somehow we managed to then come together for family dinners, bridge games (we had enough in the family for 2 tables), and outings, although these were still peppered with many jabs of sharpened tongues.

WHO HAS SEEN THE WIND ?
BY: CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by.

Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT
January 2010

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