School Days: Crying Under the Table

Sparked in part by this post of a school memory, and by the seasonal appropriateness of the tale, this may be a new feature – at least for the moment. Consider it the anti-thesis of the ‘Summer Memories’ series here, here, here, here and here. In these posts, I’ll recall a school memory that has stayed with me three decades and counting. For this first one, a memory of my very first day of nursery school. So traumatizing was it that I remember it clearly to this very day.

No one told me what it was going to be like. If I heard anything about school at home, it was how much my Mom hated it. Why would she force me to do something she herself despised? Aside from that bit of indefensible logic, I also just wasn’t ready to be left without my Mom. I suppose every kid feels like that at one point or another, but I seemed to take it harder than the others, who were already playing and interacting when I walked hesitantly into the classroom.

They tried to introduce me to the other classmates, but I wanted none of it. I ended up bawling underneath a table, afraid I would be torn away from Mom. Another kid, Eric, who would go on to become a football-playing jock, shared his tissues with me. He too was crying, and a bit harder than me. His Mom sat next to mine in the front of the room, apparently the space for parents whose kids were having a tough time letting go. I watched my Mom there, making sure she would not try to sneak out and leave me there alone. I got through it after a few days (though I would repeat the scene the very next year at the start of Kindergarten.) For then, it was sheer terror to be left behind by my mother.

It was the teacher’s son, a small boy with a mop of perfectly straight bright blonde hair, who came over to me and brought me into the social fold. Once he did that, I was fine. In fact, I was rather well-liked, so much so that by the end of the year I was no longer close to him. I didn’t feel guilty about that until this moment. Strange, the way guilt and forgiveness morph over time. We never know how we’ll look back at our behavior. For the most part, at such a young age, I was a pretty good kid. That would change soon enough…

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