Milestones
My mom wasn’t emotional enough to give me a hug and a kiss as she dropped me off for my first day of first grade, but I didn’t mind. I felt I was lucky that she’d at least given me a ride – a luxury that I knew wouldn’t be coming again. My parents sort of thought of us as little postal workers when it came to walking to school; neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night would warrant them giving us a ride anywhere if we were healthy enough to be ambulatory.

Since I was the last of the three daughters in the family, there was very little ceremony left for my rites of passage; not that I think my older sisters had much pomp expended on them either. My mom wasn’t going to waste time on silly sentiments about her “little babies” leaving the nest for grade school. Now that I was in first grade, she had a career search to begin. After ten years staying home with children, she was ready to be out in a world of adult company and conversation. She waved, turned, and virtually flew out of Room 1, following the sweet perfume of freedom right out the double front doors of Bush Elementary School.

This was the end of the summer of ’68, the Summer of Love, at least in the rest of the world. In our house in Salem, Mom and Dad, who had started their family rather late in life, were already well past well past 40—and were therefore part of that generation of people over 30 who were not to be trusted. To their credit, we never heard them utter even a single racial epithet, but they showed no compunction about identifying hippies as a breed apart from “normal” people. On the rare occasions that we saw a longhaired psychedelic being on the streets, we girls would hoot and point as if we’d just spotted a Martian. Much to my dad’s amusement. He never knew how we grew to covet love beads and leather sandals, thinking they were probably the most exotic accessories in the world.

To say our parents kept us sheltered from the long strange trips the country took in the 1960’s would certainly be an understatement. Not only were we kept from the evil influence of the hippie generation, we were so cosseted that we never even heard of the Beatles until long after they had broken up. Under the circumstances, I have to wonder how it was that I ever heard Simon & Garfunkle singing about Mrs. Robinson, but clearly I had, because I was especially thrilled to discover that my first grade teacher was named Mrs. Robinson. I may have had absolutely no idea what the lyrics meant, but that didn’t keep me from humming them under my breath as my Mom and I exchanged our brisk farewells that first morning. I had things to do too.

Mrs. Robinson had labeled me with a nametag cut out in the shape of a teddy bear on which she had written my name in her confident, clear handwriting. I wore it proudly. As the other kids filed in clinging to their sniffling, teary mothers, I carefully organized my desk, packing away Crayolas, big round pencils, and my pulp paper tablet with the best precision I could muster at age six. I wished the rest of the moms would get themselves on their way so class could actually start. I had on a new dress (not one of the dreaded hand-me-downs from my sisters), by black patent leather shoes with ruffled white anklets, and a smile featuring a conspicuous lack of teeth. I was so ready to get my education underway!

As I waited impatiently for the moms to clear out and the class to begin, a little boy approached me. His mom had already departed too. The nametag attached to his shirt read “T-O-M-M-Y,” but, not yet having learned to read, I didn’t know what the letters said. So I asked him what his name was.

“Tommy,” he said. “What’s yours?”

“Amanda Matilda,” I answered.

“Oh. So… do you wanna fuck?”

Here was a word I had never heard before. So, having no idea what I had just been invited to do, I asked what exactly he meant.

“That’s where a boy and a girl go behind the bushes, and the boy takes off the girl’s clothes, then the girl takes off the boy’s clothes, and the boy lays on top of the girl.”

Failing to see the attraction in any of this (especially for the girl, who was evidently to be sandwiched between a gross naked boy and mud), I declined the offer. Tommy shrugged and went on his way.

I recounted this little vignette to Howser after having put Peaches to bed one night last week. He was clearly appalled. “You didn’t tell your parents?” he asked.

“God, no. I would get in trouble for saying a word like that to them. At least I thought I would at the time. Besides, it was all very conversational. I remember feeling embarrassed, but not threatened. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Still, I remember that little exchange more than thirty years later.

I had dropped off Peaches that morning at school for her first day of first grade. I gave her a hug and a kiss at the classroom door, but kept things brisk. I know she was thrilled to be starting her education too. I went out the door with a smile on my face, but the tears started as soon as I closed the car door behind me.

I wonder now if my mother did that too back in ’68.

* * *

Update: I wrote this little essay several years ago when Peaches started first grade. This week, I dropped her off for her first day of middle school. Dear God, where do the years go?

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. surly girl
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 00:48:00

    even tho small person had been in daycare since she was not-quite-two, i still cried like a girl on her first day at big school.she has kissed boys, but to my knowledge none of them has yet asked her if she wants to fuck…..

    Reply

  2. OldHorsetailSnake
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 09:43:00

    Tildie: Did you know that Bush Elementary is about to be torn down? Salem Hospital needs it for expansion, so the Hospital is building a new school elsewhere. It really was a building past its prime, so it's a good deal for the school district.

    Reply

  3. Danger Panda
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 10:39:00

    Hoss, Yeah, I know the school's coming down and that they've built a new one. My biggest nightmare is that future generations will believe the Bush School was named after one George Bush or another based on its constuction c. 2005. What a tragedy!

    Reply

  4. Patti
    Sep 08, 2005 @ 22:20:00

    Wow, you really know how to set a scene! I am with you on the Beatles Envy.

    Reply

  5. FTS
    Sep 11, 2005 @ 10:37:00

    Thanks for stopping by, though I don't know how you found me. I like your site and have added you to my Rising Stars roll. 🙂

    Reply

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