Morningside Drive

18 May 08

Mrs. Gaillard’s Kindergarten

Filed under: Preschool — by turtlemom3 @ 5:48 pm

When I was 3, I went to kindergarten. It was 1/2 day. My little Gam would drive me there in the mornings and pick me up at noon.

It was at Mrs. Gaillard’s kindergarten that I learned to skip, to do a polka, to hate canned orange juice and graham crackers, to clap in unison, to make “music” with sticks and washing boards (do kids today even know what washing boards are???).

And I learned to read – not from attending kindergarten, but from being read to every single day and night by my Momma and my little Gam. And by Gaga. They read to me – there was no TV, no computer games, no computers back then. We read, listened to the radio, played games and played outside.

Mrs. Gaillard read to us – Mother Goose rhymes, of course, but also Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and Uncle Remus – the “real” Uncle Remus stories, not the “nicey-nice” stories from Walt Disney. We drew pictures, pasted things together using flour paste that we made ourselves, and learned to draw straight lines using a ruler. pretty advanced for 4 year olds!

We also learned letters and numbers – I already knew mine, but I pretended to not know them because I wanted to “fit in” and be liked. Somehow, however, I was found out, and pushed to the outside of the groups. I was the last to learn to skip, the last to learn to jump rope, the last to learn to ride a bicycle, The last to learn to jump a pogo stick, the last to learn to ride a scooter, the last to learn to slide down a sliding board, the last to learn how to pump up a swing, the last to learn to “skin the cat.” I was hopeless! I was an outcast.

Right from 3-year-old kindergarten I was an outcast!

But it didn’t matter! I could read and they couldn’t! But I didn’t tell them. This was MINE! This was my great secret! I could read. And I would come home – eagerly – and read of things the others never dreamed of. Not only fairy tales, but the funny papers, and my treasured book of Poems for the Childrens’ Hour, and the Children’s Blue Bird, and the encyclopedia – the 1936 edition of some encyclopedia that my little Gam and Gaga had gotten. I found the skeleton, and Gam helped me memorize the bones and joints – at 4! Because that’s what I wanted to do. And she helped me learn to being to play piano.

So I had reading and music. I made my own music as well as the music she taught me – bits and pieces of nursery rhymes and children’s songs.

Every morning I went to Mrs. Gaillard’s. Every noon Gam picked me up and brought me home. And then, one day, she wasn’t there! I was informed that there was a man to take me home – along with the rest of the children who lived in a certain direction! I remember my legs turning to water and feeling like I was going to have diarrhea! I sat down in a cold sweat! How would this person know where I lived?! I kept my mouth closed, and followed directions, not letting anyone know how scared I was. I got in the wooden-sided station wagon and clutched my stomach all the way. The car stopped here and there to let a child out. Then, wonder of wonders! It stopped at MY HOUSE! I was never so grateful to get home!! I went in the house and threw up. Then I lay in bed an shook for a while, and my little Gam wiped my forehead with a cool cloth, and brought me weak tea and lightly buttered toast. I was still shakey when Momma and Gaga got home that night.

I was supposed to be Mary in the Christmas pageant, but I caught measles – the red measles – the “bad” kind. High fevers, family terrified about encephalitis, brain damage, hearing loss. My little Gam kept bringing me aspirin to take (yep aspirin – acetaminophen had not yet been invented, and Reyes Syndrome had not yet been discovered). I hated it. But I took it. St. Joseph’s children’s aspirin – orange flavored. So I didn’t get to be Mary. My one and only chance to do that. {{SIGH!!}}

Eventually I began to enjoy the afternoon rides home a little bit, but I didn’t like them as much as when my little Gam had picked me up. I used to sit in the back seat of the big black Packard and close my eyes and figure out where we were just from the number of turns in which directions and the hills and vales. I got pretty good at it – especially for a 4 year old! I tried to do it when John was driving the station wagon, but it didn’t work as well because he kept changing routes.

Everything changed in mid November of 1946. I was just-turned-4, and still going to Mrs. Gaillard’s Kindergarten. Second year. Still an outcast.

I was playing in my bedroom when I heard something strange down the hall. Like my little Gam calling me. I went toward her room and got to the door. She was hanging on my Gaga’s neck crying and screaming his name (which was my name, too) over and over and over, and crying and crying. My stomach did it’s thing about feeling weird and I went to the bathroom where Momma was getting a bath and I went in and told her Gam needed her. I must have looked strange because she didn’t even get mad at me for coming in when she was in the tub.

My life changed that night. I didn’t even get a bath. I was bundled into my ‘jammies and into bed. They turned the light off and closed the door. There were strange noises in the house. I got out of bed, went to the window and looked out. Some people were carrying my Gaga out of the house on a stretcher and putting him in a red amblance. Then they drove him away. Momma and my little Gam left the house. Daddy had not lived with us for about a year. And the lady that babysat me when everybody went out was there. Miss Jenny. I didn’t like her, much, and I didn’t like her that night at all. I was so scared I crapped my pants. And I wouldn’t let Miss Jenny change them. I waited until my Momma came home. What a mess. I NEVER crapped my pants again. The rest of my life I’ve dealt with constipation.

But my little Gam didn’t take me to Mrs. Gaillard’s Kindergarten the next day. My Daddy came and took me. We stopped at the Toddle House and had breakfast. That was nice, and I liked it. I was sorry we couldn’t do it every morning. I didn’t talk about what had happened to anyone. I don’t know what Momma and my little Gam must have been going through. Gaga had a brain abscess left over from WW I, that had been growing for over 20 years. It had burst. One of the higher muckety-mucks at Emory University Hospital in neurosurgery had a go at him. The operation was a success – but the patient died. He died on the day that the Winecoff Hotel caught on fire and was the worst hotel fire disaster in history. My Daddy came and picked me up and we drove around some. One of the places we drove near was … the Winecoff Hotel! Of course! It was near where he worked, and he wanted to see it – nevermind that there was a totally traumatized 4 year old girl in the car with him. I have no idea what I saw and what i have constructed as a false memory. One definite false memory was that for years and years I believed my grandfather – my Gaga – had died saving me from the fire in the Winecoff Hotel. I don’t THINK I really saw anyone jump from a high window and fall to the street – or did I? I don’t know.

There are things I’ll never know.

We had a melancholy Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. My little Gam started smoking – a Catholic priest friend lit up her first one – to help her with her grieving. She never got over losing Gaga.

Mama tried to be more “with” me, but she was struggling for money, and was working harder, trying to be promoted to a better salaried position. She got it shortly. But it wasn’t enough to keep me in private school. After going to first grade at Washington Seminary for Girls, I transferred in second grade to Morningside Elementary School (K-7) and spent another 6 years as an outsider.

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