birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Kindergarten, Day 1

I went to the same red brick school my father started at when he was five and graduated from when he was 17. On the first day of kindergarten, I was five, and walked out onto the playground after class. A boy from my class was balancing on the teeter-totter. It was 1950, and the teeter-totter’s top end was four or five feet in the air. I stood very still, watching him. 

He said, “Hi, what’s your name?”

“Terry. What’s yours?”

“Dougie.”

“Want to be my friend?”

“Yes.” 

From that day on, we were girl friend and boy friend. For Christmas, I gave him one of those little plastic toys with candy – maybe shaped like a boat, or a car, with lollipops (although we called them suckers). He gave me some small toy. We played together at recess. Best was going out to the far side of the playground where two dozen pine trees made a small open forest. Several fallen trees among them on the ground made ships or mountains for our adventures. Other kids played in the group too.

We went to each others’ houses a few times during those years, in the summers. Dougie lived in a basement house, of which there were quite a number around our small town. His parents had a lot at the edge of the small town; they’d had money to dig a basement, roof it over, and live in it. The bathroom was two barrels outside in the “back” yard – a weedy lot. One was for #1, and one was for #2. 

At the class Christmas party in third grade, Dougie gave me a crystal necklace that his grandmother had given to his sister but his sister didn’t want. I sat at my desk watching it sparkle in the sun. Along with it came the words from Dougie, that “I thought you’d like this. Nancy is my girl friend now.” Nancy Metzger, that was, who lived a block down the hill from my house, and who played kissie-face at recess with Dougie and Arthur Hanson and the other boys.

The rest of that year is a blur, and the next year I was allowed to go to Moccasin School a half mile away. I could walk there with my one-year-older-than-me sister, and learn to play an instrument. I would meet all new kids and start over. My first day of fourth grade, Jim Lolmaugh greeted me at the front of the classroom and said loudly, so that everyone would hear: “Oh I remember you from kindergarten. You had bangs and looked like a witch.”


dandelion seeds
appearing from wrinkled head
blown on wind
 

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