I was two when we moved to Hawaii, which means my brother was 6 months old, and we were a handful. Which is how it happened that I started going to a private nursery school when I was so small. I learned to write there, so there must've been schoolwork, but none of my memories have anything to do with that. I remember waving goodbye to my mother as I got on the red school bus carrying a red plaid lunchbox with my lunch inside, a Velveeta on white bread sandwich sliced on the diagonal and wrapped in waxed paper and a red plaid thermos of milk; lying down on a woven mat for a nap; standing in the center of a circle for the farmer in the dell and singing, "The cheese stands alone," and feeling very lonely myself. The best part was coming home again. My first stop, when I was 4 or so, was Mrs. Ohashi's, where there would be tea in delicate china cups for her and me, a Lipton's tea bag in hot water and a sugar cube, stirred in with a silver spoon. Mrs. Ohashi had two children, Harold and Margaret, who were older than I and never around when I got there. The comfort of this one small thing, a cup of tea, was just for us. I was shy and may not have chattered. I picture us sitting companionably, stirring and sipping our tea.
The toys I loved best then and long after were tea sets made of eggshell thin blue or pink plastic, a tall, long-spouted pot that was hardly more than an inch tall, a couple of tiny cups and saucers, a couple of plates that could've rested side by side on a dime. They came jumbled in a plastic bag a couple of inches wide, to be poured out and arranged, the cups "filled" and offered to plastic baby dolls whose heads and limbs snapped off, and whose round red lips always welcomed a taste. "So nice to see you again," the party always began, just as it did at Mrs. Ohashi's. "Sit down and have some tea."