Were you one of those children who loved starting school with the “big kids”, or were you an independent spirit like me?
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Summer had been good…when my brother and sisters were around, and we alternated watching TV off and on all morning. Later, we swam in the pool. Mom was always around the house, too: she read her paper, drank coffee, and played her radio from the kitchen as she washed our infinite dishes. Daily, she went up and down the stairs with the laundry basket or retrieved meats from the freezer to thaw out for dinner.
In afternoons, most of us turned on the TV to watch Guiding Light together. Before dinner, she sent one of us downstairs to get a can of vegetables. Mom sung choruses of songs that she never knew the lyrics to as she went about the housework or out to the clothesline in the yard. Her favorite was “Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack. Mom sang: “Killing me softly with his song…” then be all “da, da, da, dah, dah…” because she did not know the words.
But none of this mattered now. It was September, Mom had a job, and we all had to go to work, school, or in my case: PRESCHOOL. Softly, I cried, “Mom, I don’t want to.”
“Susie, you have to go,” she said.
I took my dumb Snoopy jacket from her.
“Mom!” I told her, and huffed and puffed as I put my arms into my jacket sleeves.
“We’re going,” she insisted.
I refused to look her at all on the WHOLE drive to the rec center. I looked out the window as we turned onto the main road in front of the Community Market because it was on my side. I refused to turn and look at Pizza Hut because it was on her side of the car, even though I liked the red roof. And I enjoyed the cruise down the hill until we made the big right turn at the bottom of it as usual in front of our McDonald’s. After the turn, there was a long stretch of trees and the big park that we went by with the funny grey poles and their baskets. I enjoyed all that as usual from the passenger side. The last few minutes, there were the last two big stop lights.
Unfortunately, eventually, we arrived, and there was no turning back. Mom was to go to work all morning, and I was stuck here at this “preschool” as it was called.
We stepped out of the Suburban and walked up to the set of double, big glass doors.
Mom walked me to the door of my classroom and told me, “I’ll see you at lunchtime,” and pet my head. Then she left, walked away, and did not look back. I was shocked how easy it was for her. ‘Mom! I wanted to cry out, please don’t leave me here,’ but I knew that she did not want to hear it. I knew that she had ‘gone back to work,’ meaning that she wasn’t home all day for me anymore. She was an aide at a school—whatever that meant—but not my school. Why couldn’t she at least be at mine?
So, I went over to one of the bare spaces on the big, navy blue rug in the back and sat down like a good girl. Ms. Wesson talked to a few children in the front row.
Then she boomed her “Good morning!” to us.
Then we said our “Good morning!” back to her.
That’s what we did. She trained us to do it just like that. I was not feeling it today, but mouthed it along with everyone else’s exuberance.
We sang the days of the week: “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…” or “ABCDEFG, HIJKLMNOP, QRSTUV, WX, Y and Z…” but I was so sick of these songs! Then it might be Old McDonald, too. She would ask volunteers for the song of the morning, but when I raised my hand, I almost never got picked! I might as well have been at home. But at least that was my brother and sisters. I swear there were twenty other kids here so you didn’t stand a chance! How could I get out of this nightmare?
To be continued…