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.