Kindergarten taught lifelong lessonsPublished 10:01am Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Column: Tales from Exit 22
I nearly head-butted a guy the other day.
I didn’t mean to.
I blame kindergarten.
I was getting on the Metro — a subway train in Washington, D.C.
I was soaking wet. Bob Dylan sang, “It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” Bob was right.
I jumped onto the train. I stepped on my untied shoelaces, stumbled and bumped into a young man who was seated, listening to an iPod through earbuds. I nearly hit his head with mine but rammed his shoulder with my noggin instead. There were no apparent injuries.
My shoes do not stay tied. Even my loafers refuse to remain tied.
I blame kindergarten back before everyone lived on the outskirts of a big-box store — large stores that bend over the horizon. Big-box stores in those days were stores that manufactured big boxes. It was when all the best stuff was made in the good-old USA. The only video game was called “adjusting the rabbit ears antenna just enough to get a picture on the TV.”
My mother’s friends said, “How are you enjoying kindergarten? School will be the best days of your life. You are getting so big.”
I’d get in trouble by replying, “So are you.”
I went to kindergarten to learn how to use thumbs. My opposable thumbs set me apart from slugs. I needed to learn how not to run with scissors. The blunt scissors that couldn’t cut air needed to run by themselves.
Kindergarten was a place to go and try not to think about red Kool-Aid. I liked my kindergarten classmates. We had grown up together — at different speeds and angles. No one in my class wore a T-shirt bearing the name of a professional athlete. We weren’t adults in training. We were first-graders in training. We were adorable. Probably. We could pick things up from the floor without grunting.
We raised our hands if we had questions or answers. We had more questions than answers. That’s because we had no answers.
Our most common question was, “May I go to the bathroom?” Our second most frequent question was, “May I go home?”
I am sure that she was a great educator, whoever she was, but I never really knew my kindergarten teacher. I went to kindergarten just long enough to catch whatever illness was going around. Kindergarten was a giant Petri dish filled with nasty viruses. I was a vector who made contagion possible. I contracted measles, mumps, scurvy, chicken pox, colds, flu and a bad case of bubonic plague. What was going around couldn’t get around me. I should have worn a “toxic hazard” warning sign just as a farm combine wears a slow moving vehicle sign. The school bus was a death march to a spot where the weak were culled from the herd.
That was typical of grade school. Several years later, I began my acting career when I was an emergency angel in a Christmas play. At the last minute, I replaced an older child who had fallen prey to some infirmity.
Kindergarten required me to produce naptime drool on a knotted rug brought from home. I had little time to frolic. On a good day in school, I had milk before becoming ill and being sent home.
I’m certain my kindergarten teacher covered tying shoes. I was enrolled in an accelerated learning program. She taught, but I never learned. She had to wonder if my family tree had a fork in it.
I recited the rhyme, “Bunny ears, bunny ears, playing by a tree. Crisscrossed the tree, trying to catch me. Bunny ears, bunny ears, jumped into the hole, popped out the other side beautiful and bold.”
I tied the shoelaces in ugly knots that refused to stay knotted.
“You’re knot trying,” I heard others giggle.
Tying a shoe was like burning my name on the surface of the moon. It would have been cool but not likely to happen. I should have used duct tape and a stapler.
It was hard to concentrate on shoelaces while I was as nervous as a squirrel about to cross the road. I knew there was a germ in the classroom with my name on it. I’d have been safer using dynamite to fish for bullheads. I had the heebie-jeebies — whatever they were. If I didn’t see Doc Olds each week, he called to make sure that I wasn’t all right.
My untied shoelaces and I visit schools often doing various programs, but I avoid kindergarten classes.
I’m afraid of catching beriberi.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.