While going through some old files recently I found a copy of the composite class photo of an elementary school class. It prompted me to remember that it was 60 years ago this month that my education career began.
In the early ’50s kindergarten in the Ellsworth (Iowa) school system was a nine-week spring affair. So while many of my contemporaries in other schools had been attending kindergarten since August or September 1953, I began school in March 1954.
Before the kindergarten session started my mother took me to the school for vaccinations. I was not the bravest kid in town and just as the doctor plunged that long, thick needle into my fat, tender arm I jerked away. The needle went in anyway, but I got a good scolding from the doctor. When he cautiously pulled the needle out of my arm it looked like a fish hook. The doctor reminded me that the needle could have broken off in my arm and then further steps would have been needed to retrieve the broken piece. That’s heavy stuff for a kindergarten kid. All I wanted was to avoid a shot.
My mother walked me to school on the first day of kindergarten. On that short walk I remember her warning me not to lie in school. She said I would get a mark against my name if I lied. I knew that lying was wrong but I didn’t know what she meant about the mark against my name. Years later I came to the realization that I had been a pudgy little prevaricator. Mom had reason to warn me about lying. One day during kindergarten Show & Tell Time a classmate announced that he had a brand new baby brother at home. In a show of one-upmanship when it was my turn I stood up and announced that I, too, had a brand new baby brother. This was not totally untrue as my second brother was born eight-months earlier. I may have failed to note that time lag. I thought nothing more of the incident until sometime later when, after parent-teacher conferences, my mother brought up the matter during supper. It was a small town; my teacher knew I was lying.
I can’t recall that table talk in detail other than it included another admonition to not lie.
When I attended my grandniece’s preschool “graduation” program last May I was shocked at how much preschoolers learn these days. Nowadays children know more going into kindergarten than I did coming out of kindergarten.
The only real challenge I recall from kindergarten was learning how to tie my shoes. The task was a precursor to the rest of my educational experience: it was a struggle. Finally, in the last days of the nine-week session, I successfully (and proudly) tied my shoes all by myself. Our kindergarten was an all-day affair and after lunch we took naps. We had to bring a mat of some kind to lie on and I brought a throw rug. Lying on a thin rug on a hard floor would kill my back today but at 6-years of age it wasn’t a problem. What was a problem was that the kid lying next to me kept putting his foot on my rug. This irritated me enough to cause me to remember it 60 years later. I must have really been ticked.
Our kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Nibe. I remember her as very kind and gracious. Some 25 year ago my family attended a high school graduation ceremony back home in Hamilton County. As we exited the gymnasium an attractive middle-aged woman approached me and said, “Arvid, do you remember me?”
It took my brain a few seconds but then I realized this was my kindergarten teacher. “Mrs. Nibe!” I exclaimed. What a treat to see her again after 35 or so years. We had a brief but pleasant conversation. We wished each other well and went on our way.
Minutes later I remembered my false birth announcement during kindergarten Show & Tell Time. Oh crap, I thought, Mrs. Nibe probably didn’t believe a word I said tonight.
Yep, it’s been 60 years and I’m still telling stories. Nowadays, however, I strive to tell the truth.