Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Everything I Need to Know...

I was recently asked to write something for a "memory book" for my kindergarten teacher, who has terminal cancer. Someone asked if I still remembered my kindergarten teacher--of course! Okay, it probably helps that I grew up in a small town, where many of my teachers were friends of my parents and parents of my friends, but I'm sure I would remember her, regardless. Who could forget kindergarten?

Back in the dark ages, when I was a child, kindergarten had yet to be mandated as part of the public schools, so the one I attended was private. There were no pre-schools at that time in that small town, so kindergarten was our first exposure to organized learning. (There were day-cares, of course, but the focus there was generally on social activities. Lots of playing outside--remember that? Children played OUTside? On rickety metal swingsets and asphalt playgrounds? And lived to tell the tale?) Purdy's Kindergarten was in the lower level of Mrs. Purdy's house, and playtime was often outside there, as well. No asphalt, though--no, we played in the big backyard, which if I remember correctly was not even FENCED IN (gasp!), and had great fun running and hiding and swinging in the thicket of grapevines. We also learned rudimentary language and mathematic skills, of course, and the other children were so impressed that I could already write "real words." Hee. (My mother was a reading teacher and a pianist--I got a nice headstart on reading both words and musical notation. Thanks, Mom.)

I was an excruciatingly shy child. Excruciatingly. While I was quite a chatterbox at home, in public, with strangers...well, no one could have been blamed for thinking me a mute. I refused to even answer the roll call. I'm not sure exactly what I thought would happen if I dared to verbalize a response in front of the other children, but whatever my childish reasoning, refuse I did. Said refusal did, however, set the stage for perhaps the most gallant act of chivalry ever performed on my behalf. Across the table from me sat the most fascinating person I'd ever seen--a young boy with a Dennis the Menace-esque shock of bright orange hair and freckles ALL OVER HIS FACE. John Robert. (Not John, or Johnny, or Johnny-Bob. John Robert.) I was enthralled. I stared at him whenever I thought he wasn't looking. Eventually he noticed, and stared back, and before you know it, we were deep in puppy love. We held hands and played together outside, and then one day he performed the ultimate act of love. When Mrs. Purdy called my name (and I, as usual, refused to answer), he ducked his head to the side and squeaked "Here." Mrs. Purdy was no fool, and figured out instantly what he'd done, and he got scolded. Yes, my brave young fellow put himself on the line for me, all right. (Where are all the gallant older fellows willing to put themselves at such risk for their lady fair? Sigh. Sadly, we ended up going to different elementary schools the next year, and the love affair was over. Oh, what might have been. Hee.)

Well my shyness persisted, of course...things like that don't resolve overnight, but Mrs. Purdy never pushed me, and eventually I began to come out of my shell. Oh, not enough to lead the class in the Pledge of Allegiance--are you crazy? I don't need a little flag sticker beside my name THAT badly!--but it got better. She arranged playdates for me with some of the other shy little girls, and eventually I was a functioning member of kindergarten society.

So yeah, I remember my kindergarten teacher. My parents have kept her posted through the years about my singing and acting achievements, about which she was thrilled. (My mother still delights in telling my friends the story of how I was afraid to speak out loud. She particularly likes to tell the story after she sees me onstage in some especially outrageous role. "Remember how you used to be afraid to answer the roll in kindergarten? Look at you now!") We're going to do a performance of the play I'm currently working on (the one that's travelling to Louisiana next month for competition) in my hometown, and my mother was very much hoping Mrs. Purdy would be well enough to come. Sadly, that won't be the case.

I hope her family got lots of remembrances from her decades of young pupils. I hope she's enjoyed reading them, and knowing that she had a positive influence on our lives. Thanks to her, to paraphrase an old Gospel hymn, "When the roll is called up yonder, I'll to say HERE!"


3carnations said...

That's a sweet story. :)

-R- said...

A memory book is a very sweet idea.

It is cute that you were so shy! It is too bad you were separated from your true love at such a tender age. He sounds very chivalrous indeed.

gorillabuns said...

hopefully, your love remained chivalrous throughout his life...first grad hopefully, didn't change him.

what a sweet remembrance and who doesn't remember their kindergarten teachers? mine was one hippy cool cat!

lizgwiz said...

3car, thanks. Kindergarten is a sweet time, isn't it?

-r-, I think he was probably my one true love, and now I'm destined to a life of lonely, crazy cat-ladydom. Sigh.

gorillabuns, I had one slightly hippy-ish teacher in elementary school, and we thought she was FAScinating!

don't call me MA'AM said...

That will be a nice thing for your teacher.

I can relate to the used-to-be-painfully-shy" thing.

Stinkypaw said...

What a nice tribute to Mrs Purdy! I'm sure she'll be touched by your kind words (her family will for sure).

I didn't go to kindergarden, went straight to 1st grade, and I fondly remember each of my teachers. I used to love school!

Nice post.

lizgwiz said...

dcmm, I think I still AM that shy, I've just learned to compensate for it. A lot of performers say that, actually. Is that true for you?

stinkypaw, I can't say I remember ALL my teachers fondly (I'm remembering my 7th grade Geography teacher--what was her name? Big, teased hair, false eyelashes and lots of 70s blue eyeshadow.), but most of them I do. Some of them I still see occasionally, and I can't think of them as anything other than "Mr. Smith" or "Mrs. Jones." Teachers don't have first names! Hee.

Stinkypaw said...

How true! Teachers do not have first names, unless they were nuns than it was Sister Mary, but no last name! he!

Tony said...

This is for all the people who visit Lizland and enjoy her witty missives and stuff like that and stuff. (The last was an inside joke, about which she could and should write--a never-ending story...almost). I am her BFF. THE BFF. And, Liz, do NOT make that into something dirty, nasty and tasteless, no matter how appropriate you feel your response may be. Anyway, folks, I have known of the John Robert M. story for over 20 years. And it still delights me, every time. Not as much as her mother saying, "Remember when you were so shy in kindergarten you wouldn't answer roll?" when I am fortunate enough to see Lizantula in a show, and her parents are attending that night. Her mother is a keeper. Plus, her parents always take us out to eat. But I digress. The point is (and do NOT say "on your head," Liz) that Liz and her family are FABULOUS. Insane, but as they say, "Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, Pot."
Oh, and Liz, I dreamed of Filliam H. Muffman last night. Only he was cheating on her, and she was upset because her giant Rubik's cube balloon had blown up and was found in shards under a bridge. Go figure.
Also, she is not shy now. But that could be from the theoretical brain damage we received by theoretically doing theoretical pharmaceuticals and such.
Liz, I enjoy your blogs very much and find them to be well-written, thoughtful and mostly upbeat. But your handwriting is atrocious.

lizgwiz said...

Tony, please tell me that William H. Macy was cheating on Felicity with ME in your dream. Since he is, as you know, one of my television boyfriends.

Sparkling Cipher said...

That boy was so sweet. I hope he stayed that nice.

The teachers had a name for me - Mouse, as in quiet as a. I never compensated by becoming a performer, though. People still tell me I'm way too quiet.

lizgwiz said...

sparkling, I hope he stayed nice, too. I will confess to googling him once, but all I was able to find out was that he was married.

Don't worry, everyone--I had no intention of actually contacting my kindergarten boyfriend!