School Days

From 1976-1979, my parents taught on an Indian reservation in Sells, Arizona. My mother taught kindergarten and my father, high school U.S. history.

For reasons I’m unclear of, I attended a Catholic school in a different district for kindergarten and first grade, almost nine miles away in Topawa. My family isn’t Catholic.

The scent of Play-Doh and Coppertone, riding my Big Wheel up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, skinned knees, playing house, watching the Donnie and Marie Show, too much sugar cereal and wishing I was older all remind me of my childhood, but it’s six very distinctive events that stand out when I think back to being four and five years old and my first school days:

1. I got to ride the school bus all by myself for what I now know was only 20 minutes, but back then felt like 90. How grown up I felt. It was frightening too, especially the time that I missed my stop and a policeman escorted the bus to pull over so that I get off after multiple radio calls were made regarding my whereabouts. I knew full well that the light haired, light eyed little girl they were talking about was me.

2. I stapled my finger to see what it would feel like and I quickly learned that it hurt like hell as I stood there bleeding my ruby red blood all over Miss Mills’ desk with big crocodile tears streaming down my face. I’ve never done that again!

3. Catholic nuns can be both vicious and the most endearing women on the planet.

4. Case and point: Once Sister Trecel made me eat a banana at lunch even though I told her that it would make me sick. When I threw up all over her and her starch black and white habit, she sent me home with a note of apology to my parents pinned to my shirt.

5. Naps… need I say more? Actually, it is not the naps that I recall so much as the uncomfortable green army cots and the giant pools of drool that I remember most of all. Not mine, mind you. I also remember laying there for what seemed like forever listening to my class mates snore. I still can’t nap.

6. When Miss Mills asked us to draw a picture of our family, I drew my mother, father, myself and my baby sister. Miss Mills called my mother that evening to congratulate her on our family’s new addition. My sister, Leah wouldn’t be born for another eight years. Gulp! Thinking back on this family portrait always reminds me how much I longed for a sibling.

Two big years of my young life as defined by six small events that stand out very clearly in my adult head.

This post is for The Red Dress Club’s writing assignment, RemembeRED. This week’s prompt was to remember kindergarten.

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  1. singedwingangel says

    We had the floor mats that they use in gymnastics for our nap time.. they always smelled of bleach and pine sol where they were washed down each night.

  2. Jessica says

    Great post, I have the same recollection of Catholic school nuns. So funny the things we remember most.

  3. Honest Convo Gal says

    Tonya, You're clairvoyant. Can you tell me what numbers to play tonight on the lotto? Seriously, I like how you did this. You used the memories you have. We must be near the same age, becase I could totally smell the coppertone and I ended up with a damn Donnie and Marie song in my head. (Not. Happy. About that).

    Concrit? I think you could have made more dramatic hay out of you being "missing." I would imagine your parents sending the police after you was Drama Drama Little Lama! But that's ultimately your choice as the writer.

    I love your description of the nuns. It is spot on. Nuns, after all, are just people. They have the same range of emotions as the rest of us. Thanks for a fun piece of writing.


  4. Kimberly says

    This is so well written. It's amazing how we can recollect all this minute details even though they happened so long ago.
    I grew up in a Catholic school and I remember those nuns *shudder

  5. Elena says

    Great list! I loved riding the bus by myself as well. I had to travel 10 miles to a private school and I felt like such a grown up when I rode the bus. I love the last line "Two big years of my young life as defined by six small events that stand out very clearly in my adult head." – great ending. Good job with the prompt!

  6. writingwithchaos says

    I liked how you gave the child's perspective and then the "real" time on the bus ride. I think the drama could have been played out a bit more on the police situation.

    I've never been around nuns, so their description fascinated me.

    I also never liked naps, nor did I take them – at least until I was in college.

    Great post.

  7. Elaine A. says

    I like your list but I think you could have taken any of the separate things and made a great post out of each of them. Guess that's the beauty of our memories, huh? Love the story about how you added a baby sister to the picture you drew… :)

  8. Erin says

    Ok 1st, can I have all your naps???? =) I always got gold stars for nap!
    And you captured the nuns to a T. I had one tell me I was the devils spawn in 1st grade because I was left handed, and another one hold me and rock me and sing to me when my brother was mean to me!

  9. Erica M says

    I like how you compartmentalized the six memories. When the memories are from that long ago, it's the best way our brains can organize them.

    Quick critique: no need to describe the color of blood. Unless, of course, it was green. That would be something your reader would like to know! :)

  10. Leighann says

    I think it's hilarious that teachers used to pin notes to our shirts.
    I also think it's very psychic of you to know you would have a sister!!

  11. Leah says

    You never told me about drawing that family picture in kindergarten with a sister in it! How neat! You were psychic! : ) XOXO

  12. WinKeySolutions says

    Thank you for sharing this! I stopped in from the Tuesday Blog hop and was touched by the memories… I don't think I can remember that far back… so Ill live vicariously through yours!

  13. Jessica says

    Hopefully that nun learned not to force kids to eat bananas after that event. And she pinned a note to your shirt apologizing…was she afraid you would lose it on your way home?

  14. Galit Breen says

    I loved how you approached this with six strong memories!

    Oh dear, the bananas! And pinning notes to shirts- that's such a universal elementary school memory!

    And your sister premonition- that's pure wonderful! The reflection that you wrote about wanting a sibling, was really touching.

    I was also really intrigued by your opening and am hoping to learn more about your time in Arizona in future reads!

  15. Kat says

    I stapled my finger once too, but I think I was in third or fourth grade at the time. Way too old to do something so silly.

    What fun memories! :)

  16. Jenna says

    I loved this… I was in kindergarten in 1977-78, so the donny and marie show, big wheel, and coppertone references were right on for me :)

    I also went to Catholic school, but for all 12 years of education. And I concur that those nuns are exactly what you said!

    Glad to read more of your backstory!

  17. TKW says

    What a charming detail about your wished-for baby sister! I love that!

    I never attended Catholic school, but boy, I've heard some wild stories! Nuns are whack!

  18. mysoulforsale says

    I love this post because I think we ALL have little snippets of memories that stand out like this. For instance, I stapled my two forefingers together, too, because I was standing at the teacher's desk and he was yelling at me so I was fidgeting with the stapler until it went "snap" and the ends of my fingers were conjoined with a staple… ouchie!

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