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>remeberRED: Kindergarten

March 29, 2011

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Every morning, my long, thick hair was comb-parted and neatly halved into matching, curly pigtails.

Every afternoon I would blithely clamber from the steps of the bus clutching my metal Barbie lunchbox, the remains of peanut butter and jelly happily lingering on my cheeks. What was left of one pigtail clung desperately to the only surviving elastic. The other hung tangled around my ears.

“Plays with gusto!” my teacher wrote on my report card that year.

“Talks out of turn.” Always. (Still do.)

My school was new, an off-shoot of the Montgomery County School District, growing so rapidly that a second elementary school was required to house the many children of Virginia Tech’s young, brainy faculty.

Harding Elementary was one, enormous room that was divided into classrooms with movable walls. I remember only snapshots of that first year. We had students and professors come from the college – one visit brought gigantic cockroaches on leashes that we walked like so many poodles up and down the playground. I remember running the sidewalk, hood on, coat flying behind like a cape. We were activating our Wonder-Twin powers. We were G-force. We were in the Land of the Lost.

John-Paul, a classmate, wore bright blue Nike sneakers with blue rubber soles and white knee socks. He was beautiful.

We napped on beach towels brought from home. I picked mine out from the local K-mart. She suggested Strawberry Shortcake. I chose a pirate ship.

Hot lunches were fetched from the cafeteria. The lunch ladies, in ubiquitous flowered aprons and shower caps, handing us divided Melamine trays of mint-green. I would sometimes pass my older brother in the hallway. A fourth grader, he was too cool to notice the Kindergartener with the lopsided pigtails calling his name.

The walls were painted cinder block. The carpet was gold. The question we asked each other was not “What does your father do?” but rather, “What does your father teach?” and on Saturday nights we’d go to Gilley’s for ice cream. I felt old and sophisticated with my Pralines N Cream, sitting among the college students who cooed over my pigtails that were, for once, in their appropriate and assigned places.

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