Anticipation Is Best

My First Day at School














Anticipation Is Best

Last week I wrote about the Swiss embroidered muslin dresses that my mother made for me.   They marked me outwardly as different at church on Sundays.  I had other reasons too for being different.  School and a uniform held great promise for me. Anticipation Is Best

I couldn’t wait for my first day at Kindergarten and put on my uniform.  Then I’d really belong to something.  I’d be the same as everyone else.

Slomans was the supplier of the blue cotton for the tunic and Mom planned to give it ample hem so that it could be let out to the max before I undeniably outgrew it.  She didn’t have time for the instruction booklet although there was always some sort of technical hitch as she worked: a cobbled bobbin, tension adjustment to the top thread or was the bottom the problem?  Being left handed added to frustrations.   The shirt was a bigger challenge, getting the yoke to sit flat, and the points of the collar to match.   Button holes on the right or the left?

I kept her company with my own formidable challenge to knot my tie and tie my shoelaces.  I rather liked my reflection in the mirror but now it confused me.  I did not know my left from my right.

“Practice on teddy, so you can see what you are doing.” she suggested as she fed the machine with one hand and turned the handle with the other at a furious pace.  “You’ve got to be independent now.  Do things for yourself.  School will be your day of reckoning.”

“Reckoning, what’s that?

“You’ll see,” she said, as I made a noose around teddy and pulled it tight.  Finally I got it, the tie and the laces.

We went back to Slomans to select a leather satchel and everything to go in it: a brand new box of fat Crayola Crayons in six different colors, a ruled exercise book with lines and three new Venus 2B pencils, a sharpener.  And a rubber (eraser).  “You’ll need it” she said.  We went through the pantry to find just the right size biscuit tin for my tuck at breaktime.

“Be sure and bring your birth certificate and your inoculation book home,” she said as she slid them into the satchel the night before the big day.  “Now you’re all set.”

Dad took a moment between Sick Parade and breakfast to record how smart I looked with a photo or two.  I was too excited to eat.

I freewheeled all the way down Silver Oaks Road in the wake of my big brother.

All my friends were there, hand in hand with their mothers who had dressed for the occasion.  “Go on” he said.  “Go on!  KG is over there.  Mrs. MacDonald is your teacher.  Get going!”

I froze.  I so looked forward to this: the block of classrooms, the playground on the side and the big sportsfield beyond.  But now I was inside, the regimental rows of desks with fixed chairs looked uncomfortable, the blackboard blank.  Mrs. MacDonald’s small beady eyes bore right through me, her lips a thin line perpetually turned down.  “Where’s your mother?” she pointed to me with a flexible stick.

“I’ve got all the papers.”

“That’s not what I asked,” she barked.  “Learn to answer the question and you’ll do just fine.”

I knew I was marked, doomed, despite the blue uniform, perfectly knotted tie, turned down socks and laced-up shoes.  I was not going to fit in.


  • Betty

    Reply Reply August 28, 2010

    What an old bitty! How horrid to make you feel uncomfortable by drawing attention to your Mum’s absence! I am just amazed at how darling you look in your uniform after your desciptions of your Mum’s ability to sew. I am also amazed that she had to turn the handle on the sewing machine….how frustrating! She was obviously very talented, a virtual whiz!! I am amazed that your teacher would dare question anything about the mayor’s wife. She should be groveling at your feet to kiss up a little. By the way, I had a hard time with learning that an eraser was called a rubber in England. It sounded really nasty every time someone said that word.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 28, 2010


      Maybe i was a bit hard on her! Sewing wasn’t her favorite thing to do. She was good at other things. The first Singer she had was was manual, you turned the handle with one hand and fed the material with the other. She was left handed so this made it awkward for her. Later she got an electric machine that was operated with a knee lever.
      Rubbers! Yes we have quite a few language differences which can lead to trouble so I thought I should qualify this one!
      Mom always thought we could manage on our own…we lived such privilaged lives. I always said we lived in privileged neglect, which she greatly resented.
      Thanks for tuning in this week.

  • Janet

    Reply Reply August 28, 2010

    Sometimes teachers just don’t get it on how influential they can be with the slightest look or word. As a retired teacher of 35 years, I can safely say this.
    Watching the antics of 7th and 8th graders today as well as for the last many years , I can also say that I would like to have the chance to see how uniforms would work today in public schools. It would eliminate fashion related problems. And, it would level the playing field. I think.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 28, 2010


      You’re right, an incompatible teacher can really wreck havoc with your whole school year (if not your whole school experience, starting out, on day one, on the wrong foot).

      Uniforms definitely level the playing field, especially today with the enormous preoccupation on brand names. We could discuss this at length sometime…I’m sure the clothing manufacturing industry wouldn’t be happy with this idea.

      Appreciate your input as a veteran school teacher.


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