This time of year – particularly as a parent of a school-age kid — my thoughts dwell on the beginning of a new school year.
And not just any school year, but my first grade year.
I didn’t go to kindergarten — something about where my birthday fell made me too young for one year’s incoming class and too old for the next, apparently — so first grade was my introduction to school, obviously, but also to the big wide world out there.
I had a fairly isolated existence before I started school. I grew up on 20 acres of farm land that was mine to roam. I had a 100-year-old barn to explore and livestock to watch, including chickens that seemed determined to claw my eyes out. I think about those scary little suckers every time I have a chicken nugget.
So joining the school population in first grade was thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
Mrs. Schull — Marjorie Schull to the grown-ups — was my guide through this new world. I still remember Mrs. Schull’s patient teachings of letters and numbers and, oddly enough, the mechanics of functioning in the world of school.
Early in the year — maybe even the first day — Mrs. Schull used a plastic cafeteria lunch tray to show us how to go through the cafeteria line. I still remember that she used a pencil to show us where to put our utensils. Strangely, I remember her telling us that when we boys grew up, we would carry a wallet in our back pants pockets and that our pockets would have a button on them to secure that wallet. I still remember being resistant to that idea. For some reason that I can’t remember, I didn’t want a button on my back pocket.
The early 1990s-era building where our elementary classes were held is long gone now, but the structure — where I attended classes until we moved to a brand new elementary in fourth grade — looms large in my memory: Its three stories, steep but wide wooden stairways, mammoth windows and hissing, spitting radiators linger in my dreams.
I found a photo of the building on the Cowan Facebook page. It’s at the top of this blog entry. I’m kind of dumbfounded by how small the building looks. I remember it as larger-than-life. Mrs. Schull too.
And of course. Mrs. Schull was right about the button on my pockets. I have one or two on the back of almost every pair of pants I own.