This photo was taken in preschool at Beverly Hills Montessori. It was the late 80’s and I was 4 years old. That day was dedicated to taking cute pictures to send home for our parents, and a guy showed up with a real live pony and a bunch of fake cowpoke gear for the kids to wear. I recall this moment clearly enough to remember the photographer asking me to raise my hat in the air and holler “Yee haw!” and he told a joke involving bananas to ensure I’d smile. I don’t remember the joke, I just know it involved bananas and I thought it was hilarious. I had a total blast that day.
Preschool in general was a total blast for me, I can remember a whole lot about it. I have the kind of memory where I can clearly remember certain things that happened ages ago, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. Which probably means in 20 years I’ll be sitting somewhere and suddenly blurt out “Yeah, I remember enjoying that meal,” and anyone around me will just stare at me like… Actually, let’s face it, they’ll continue whatever they were doing because I’m sure blurting random things will be a common thing for me to do by then.
I don’t know why, but when I open a bottle of apple cider vinegar and take a whiff, I’m flooded with memories from preschool. All I can assume is my teacher had used it to cook one of our snacks, we had daily group snacks and they consisted of all sorts of different things. One day we’d have pretzels, the next day we’d have plain white rice she’d made fresh with a rice cooker, the next day we’d have raisins, etc etc etc. Preschool is where I first learned I hated Cheez Its and I’ve actually hated them my entire life, I can’t even stand the smell of them. I never think of preschool with any other smells, it’s only apple cider vinegar.
I remember the big wooden blocks we played with every day, there was a bottomless bucket of them and a group of us kids would spend half the day painstakingly building a fort or just a big wall. Then we’d all take at least one good whack at it to knock it down, then put all the blocks away.
Being forced to almost miss snacktime one day to fix a project: We had to cut out little squares of the Jack And Jill story and staple them in order onto a long strip of cardstock, and then staple the ends together to make a headband. I stapled the story all wrong thanks to not really paying attention to what I was doing and had to spend most of snacktime fixing it… I remember sitting it the corner, crying, trying to pick out the staples before the teacher’s aid came over with a staple remover. I had enough time to eat my snack.
The day I accidentally took Brittany’s lunchbox home because we had the exact same one, realizing it wasn’t mine because I proudly told mom I ate all my lunch only to open my lunchbox to find an apple and half a sandwich. Luckily she believed me since she hadn’t packed an apple that morning, I thought I’d be cheated out of a pat on the head for actually eating my lunch.
I could read and write a little, but for the life of me I couldn’t tie my shoes. The TA tried teaching me and would get frustrated when I’d immediately knot up the shoelaces on the large drawing of a shoe made of cardboard because I hadn’t actually paid attention to what he did. Or maybe it was a woman. I felt amused at their immediate irritation and knew I’d get the hang of it eventually.
Ross and his birthday party at some arcade. Him walking up to me and saying “Heather, you look beautiful!” and taking my hand to lead me to the air hockey table. We couldn’t reach very far, there was a hispanic boy and his father watching us play and each time the puck got stuck in the middle of the table where Ross and I couldn’t reach, the father flicked it toward one of us to help out.
The principal, Linda. I remember what her office looks like, though I can’t remember why I was in there, in all my school years I was never sent to the principal’s office. She’s still the principal to this day.
Sitting on top of the jungle gym talking to other kids about how we all bit our nails. This is the only memory I have of biting my nails, I don’t think I’ve done it since. This also happens to be the only memory I have of successfully climbing to the top of a jungle gym, this was the awesome huge rectangle kind, made of nothing but metal back before all playground equipment was replaced with boring plastic safety stuff that doesn’t actually allow a kid to have any imagination. And I can’t even remember the last time I saw an honest-to-goodness jungle gym.
There was a mini woodshop where we could make presents to bring home to our parents. I’m not kidding, a mini woodshop. We didn’t get to run power tools, any cutting was done by an adult, but I clearly remember making something involving a chunk of wood and a few nails I’d hammered in by myself. I’m pretty sure it was a candle holder. I’d misspelled my name on the bottom — I think I’d forgotten the A — and I spent the rest of the day mad at myself for it. Hammer and nails! At four years old! It’s amazing the only times anyone was hurt was when one kid somehow lost his entire fingernail in the sand and had to wear a bandaid over his finger until the new one grew back, and then another boy accidentally stapled his hand once during Crafts. None of us ended up with a nail in their eyeball. Kids these days aren’t even given scissors that can properly cut construction paper.
I remember my teacher too. Her name was Miss Kay and she was awesome. She was the first of a long string of teachers who helped shape my life. I think being a teacher, especially to young children, is one of the best careers a person can have simply based on how many lives you influence. Even if you never see them again, knowing you’ve influenced someone can be such an amazing feeling, I’ve had that feeling a few times throughout my life so I can only imagine what it must be like for a teacher. I’m sure a group of rambunctious toddlers can be a handful, but I hope we were a fun handful of potential future delinquents for Miss Kay!