No first grader was ever more enthusiastic about starting school or more desperate for the day than me! Any fears or misgivings were quickly buried beneath an overflowing cornucopia of euphoric anticipations.
My family had uprooted for my dad's return to college. Textbooks flash flooded our small house. Our home took on the mortuary silence of a library and reading reigned.
As a highly observant five year, I quickly surmised one very important fact:
I had to learn to read!
That was the undeniable truth. Nothing else mattered. I had to get into first grade as quickly as humanly possible and learn how to read before my daddy vanished behind a storm serge of books, never to be seen again.
I paced through the long summer months like a caged cheetah. Would Labor Day ever come? How much more of summer could I sweat through?
Finally, to the enormous relief of everyone, Labor Day came and the next day I would be starting school. Hurrah!
Daddy took me to school in the family car on his way to class. I felt so grown-up. Daddy was going to class. I was going to class. Life was good.
“Good” only lasted about ten minutes.
School was nothing like I had anticipated. Naturally there were desks, blackboards, brightly decorated bulletin boards, storage cubby holes, an aquarium, a terrarium and even a table displaying a mock-up of prehistoric life replete with dinosaurs and a fully operational volcano. There were even nineteen other children.
It was everything a normal first grader could want – but not me. To my stark amazement – there were no books! Not one – anywhere! None!
What is wrong with this picture?
Panic gripped my heart. Something was truly amiss. How could my daddy have left me at this terrible place? There had to be a mistake!
I kept trying to get the teacher’s attention. Where were the books? She brushed off my frantic pleadings like annoying dandruff. My zeal eroded into shear terror.
I was trapped into mindless first grade activities for the remainder of the day. I had to color, mold play-dough, attend recess, eat lunch, take a nap, eat snacks and even interact with the other children…but I was never allowed to open first textbook. Not one moment of my time was spent in the pursuit of literature.
I was wounded to the core! I had been deceived and coerced into a lie! I was outraged.
Suddenly I wondered – are the other children aware of the evil that had been perpetrated upon us.
I panned the room.
Not a single one! They had all been seduced by the magic of finger painting. Poor misguided babes…sigh.
But what was I to do? I was captured in this travesty surrounded by unknowing innocents…and I did not know for how long. They did not teach me how to tell time the first day of school either.
Yes, it was all a plot, but by whom? Who had masterminded this diabolical scheme?
I pondered a list of possible culprits. No one was presumed innocent. Every adult was suspect. They had all been a part of concocting this atrocious conspiracy.
At 3:30 p.m. the dismissal bell rang and our teacher lined us up for bus rides or parent pick-ups. Such relief swept over me when I saw my daddy. Surely he would rescue me from this “Room of Ruse!”
All the way home I ranted about the intolerable atrocities I had been subjected to. How wretched the teacher had been insisting that I color and play – what was wrong with that woman! Didn’t she understand what was at stake! Didn’t she know I had to learn how to read!
Looking back I can only imagine my dad’s perspective on my disappointment. He probably found it a mildly amusing diversion for the drive home.
But no one found my tirades even remotely entertaining the next nine months when I refused to go to school every day.
“Give me reading or give me death!”
Okay, may be my parents exaggerated a little when they told me about my passion for reading…but not by much!
© 6/28/04 Lissa M. Lee