|The Mayor in Third Grade|
In 1956 I began kindergarten in a “Little Town.” I was four-years-old with a birthday in late December. Never having been away from my mother much, I was terrified. Not helping was having a kindergarten teacher who looked like Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts who slammed her ruler on each little desk or rapped knuckles with that same weapon. I do not remember anything but the terror, the tears, and loneliness.
First grade was not so bad because I had a nice teacher like the one in Ding Dong School – if we had had a television and I actually knew who she was. I fell in love with Joseph Fitzpatrick, and I learned to enjoy music, games, and snacktime. I remember little beyond those experiences except wondering why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would go down in his story.
Second grade got tougher – mean and scruffy little classmates, mayonnaise sandwiches that went bad by lunchtime, trying to use a Hula Hoop, and performing on stage. I do not remember whether I was in the red-, blue- , or yellow-bird reading group, but I was not in the “top-bird” group. I must have been a yellow bird because I was still very scared; however, happily I had another nice Ding Dong School matron look-alike.
That year my family moved to another “Little Town” somewhat deeper in the South. I was behind all the bird reading groups and math groups. Worst of all, I had a teacher who looked and acted much like the witch in Wizard of Oz. I remember nothing about those three months except standing in the corner for crying all the time – watching spiders spin webs.
Third grade began with a good teacher but with rowdy classmates who knew less than I and would enjoy making me cry. Thankfully, this teacher was visited by the stork so that our class was divided between two other poor teachers.
I walked crying into that classroom. The teacher took me aside sweetly and held my hands. As I looked in her face, I realized that I had never seen anyone so beautiful. Mrs. Adkinson was a gentle princess with strawberry-tinted hair and fair skin. To build my confidence, she let me stay after school to help her with chores. I got Mrs. Adkinson all to myself before I walked home every day.
I remember being loved and getting the help I would need to catch-up after a few years to grade level. I remember making many friends whom I still have today.
At eight-years-old, I was now READY for school.