Preschool, 1977: Part III

Were you one of those children who loved starting school with the “big kids”, or were you an independent spirit like me?

#wedon’tneednoeducation #susanstrasser #amwriting #susanstrasserblog

Continued from last week…

Playtime was nice, even if it was short and broken up into different times all morning long. They did have a lot of toys! There was a toy kitchen area that beat anything close to what we had at home.

I only had a toy fridge, but they had EVERYTHING—sink, stove, a little table. The only problem was finding the spoons for the bowls. Or the knob that had broken off the stove. And where was that girl I was playing with? She said something about baking a birthday cake for her birthday. Now another kid was standing next to me! He took the bowl and walked away.

“Keith! Where are you going?” but he just walked away. His yellow hair made him stand out to me and I could remember his name.

“Grr,” I said under my breath, and opened the two pink and yellow cabinets to see if the fake food that was there yesterday was still there. Nope!

 Okay, I thought. Then I would be by myself. Was it okay to play by myself in a room full of other kids? I wondered… I’ll set this table up.  How much time was left? I asked myself.

I would pretend to stir with my finger and then taste whatever I was making.

“Wends!” someone yelled.

“Wends!” they yelled again.

Ms. Wesson was ringing the bell and shouting “Friends!” for us to go the next station. Oh!

The next morning I’d cry about not wanting to go, too. But Mom was getting tired of it by the second or third time. Another showdown by the coat closet, and I refused to put my jacket on.

“Fine, then carry it,” she persisted. She gently pushed me out the front door with her.

Or if she was in a better mood, she’d ask why I didn’t want to go.

“Susie,” she asked as we drove past the hotel with the red roof once, “Why don’t you like Ms. Wesson’s class?”

Or when she came at lunch to pick me up: “Did you have fun today?” and if I said no, she would ask why before we’d barely left the parking lot.

“Mom, I don’t have any friends there. If I stay home, I can play with Damon or Siegfried. I know them. Mom, I don’t know these other guys. They are not my friends,” I repeated. 

Mom replied, “You can make new friends there.”

“There are too many of them! And I would like to be alone sometimes, too. Did you know that I NEVER get to be by myself? The entire morning, it’s paint this, sing this, draw this, listen to this story, then go outside, then something else with all these other kids! I tried to finish my snake painting and I just had a couple of lines left on its back and I HAD to clean up. Ms. Wesson yelled at me, and this boy… I think his name is Julius was yelling at me, it was so bad Mom!” I yelled. My eyes had watered up.

“Oh, Susie,” Mom empathized as we turned in front of our McDonald’s’ to go up the Route 450 hill.

Our battle over my preschooling continued for weeks, until finally she withdrew me. I had won! No more large, noisy classrooms of children from who-knew-where. I learned that if I fought hard enough, I won.

Later, I remember playing out front and our immediate neighbor to our right, Gary Schulz, teased me about it when he heard.

“You’re a preschool dropout,” he said, laughing. He thought that was funny.

I didn’t really care. Say whatever you want. Mom told me the new neighbor was going to babysit me. It sure sounded better than the preschool racket.

I was done with school, teachers, being taught things I already knew, not knowing where parts of toy kitchens were, being out of my neighborhood and that long drive. After all, I was four and half years old now.

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