On Writing

Prompt 6 – All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Book: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, 25th Anniversary
Author: Robert Fulghum
Page 6, Line 6
Genre: Personal Essay/Humour

I was tempted to shout, “What?”

But I didn’t shout. I didn’t let on that my insides were raging with surprise. This is me on most days, scooting in and out of internal reactions that mostly come from me feeling either confused, scared, surprised, awed or different. By different I mean: like I don’t belong. Like I’m not from around here. Like there’s something wrong with me for not having the reaction that everyone around me seems to be having.

I remember feeling this way in kindergarten. My mother brought me to my first day, which in itself was something to be awed by (she very rarely was able to attend any school events). I remember that we took a cab to get to the school. Cabs both scared me and comforted me. The smell of old cigarettes mingled with body odour and leather and an air freshener I could (and still can’t) name. Taking a cab was always better and less scary than taking the city bus. That morning, I was with my mother in a cab, then with my mother walking into the school. She was holding my hand, and I liked that very much.

We walked in the huge hallways, more churchy cavernous to me than anything, then down two sets of seventys-style steps with gaps in between them (I think the house in the Brady Bunch has this type of stair) into a library. I did gasp quietly upon hitting the plush burnt orange carpet (every piece of decor was either orange or brown or yellow) with my squeaky new sneakers (they were slip-ons, white with some characters on the front and rubber in glossy colours). The library was gushing with hot air. I felt like I was in a sanctuary, safe and protected by the columns of book spines.

We stood in line behind the group of other parent/guardians and little kids. At a table ahead of us, sat people – maybe students or other teachers, I can’t remember, but they were handing out pins, round about the size of a cookie, with photos and names on them. I have no idea how they got my photo. When they handed my mother the pin, she leaned down to poke it through my first-day-of-kindergarten white shirt with a jean ruffle around the neck. This was me, officially: Vanessa – because that’s what the photo said. I was named and shuffled to a spot to sit on the floor with a bunch of other humans who looked like me: eyes bulging, tummies rolling, clothes crispy; pinned and named.

My mother left when I wasn’t paying attention to her. But I felt the absence of her presence in a small waft of air that lifted the skin on the back of my neck. I looked back

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