A few years ago my mother returned all my report cards to me and I had fun today looking at how I did. The report card showed categories that were not based on subject areas, but on habits like: “learning about God,” “getting along with others,” and “things I can do.” Each item listed under those headings has four boxes next to it, one for each quarter. These boxes are filled with symbols: + for “outstanding,” x for “needs attention, and ü for “satisfactory growth.”
I was pretty much “satisfactory” in all areas. I had all pluses in “I take an interest in many things.” I speak clearly and in full sentences” and vocationally significant “I am interested in books and pictures.” I also got three pluses for “I can make short prayers of my own.” The only less than satisfactory mark was in the second quarter when I had a “needs attention” for “I listen when others speak.”
On the back were some notes about the struggle the teacher, Mrs. Marlene Will, had in getting me to participate in action songs, and other activities where children are required to make fools of themselves. The report card did not say “fool of themselves” but I had and still have a strong resistance to any song or game where one is expected to flay one’s limbs about on command. I however had no trouble singing these songs in the privacy of my own home or in leading others in such songs. Which goes to show that I don’t really mind looking like a fool, I just don’t like being told I have to.
Kindergarten Graduation at St. John’s Lutheran School was an elaborate affair. Months were spent planning and weeks practicing, with a dress rehearsal before the entire student body the same day as the evening event. Three times we had to go back to the classroom to change costumes.
The first part we wore our Sunday best and sang religious and patriotic songs. We were standing on risers for the show and it was a very warm May night. They placed a box fan under the risers to help us stay cool. I was wearing a sun dress Mom made me. It had wide horizontal stripes of four different colors of pastel gingham with rows of lace between each stripe. The dress was somewhat billowy and I spent that part of the program constantly pushing my dress down as it filled with air.
After that we filed out and went and put on our costumes (just hats and head gear) for the theme performance.
Our theme that year was Sesame Street and many of us lent our teacher any records we had so she could plan out the program and decide characters. I was less than thrilled to be assigned Kermit the frog. Of course everyone wanted to be Big Bird, but Heidi -the tallest student in the class- was the natural choice. Matt L, whose father was the fifth grade teacher, read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level and was given the roll of Bob who sort of led the program and read from a script. I didn’t really want to be Oscar the Grouch. That roll was given to Mark who got to spend the show standing in a trash can. There were not quite enough characters for all of us (these were the days before Elmo) so Mrs. Will also pulled some other Muppets. I remember feeling sorry for Cindy who was Miss Piggy. Still I was less than happy about how small my part was. This became apparent to the audience during a counting song when I sighed audibly before delivering my line “Five coconuts.” It got a big laugh.
|Sarah using my Kermit costume for Halloween a few years later|
When the show ended we headed back to the Kindergarten room and some mothers helped us put on our caps and gowns. We were given glasses of water and encouraged to use the bathroom if we needed to. When we were ready we filed back in and sang a final song and then got our graduation certificates.
|Mrs. Will and her class. I am in the front row 2nd from the left|
Rebecca had attended kindergarten in Japan and Sarah had completed kindergarten at Westville Public Elementary School the year before Dad and Mom decided we would go to St. Johns’, so Mom had no idea what a big deal it all was. We were given tickets for guests to attend. Grandparents liked to come to these things, but our grandparents were much too far away to consider being there. So mom offered the tickets to some people at church. Irene Bose who was my Sunday School teacher and Ruby and Dean Boss -or as we girls called them, “Grandma Ruby” and “Uncle Dean” (it was Rebecca who determined that Dean was more like an uncle than a grandpa). Mom gave them the tickets and they came, but she did not count on the fact that they would decide to bring me gifts. I think mom was embarrassed by that. Certainly my sisters did not get gifts when they completed kindergarten. I was thrilled. The Boss’s gave me a small locket and Miss Bose gave me a bracelet with charms that had the Ten Commandments on them. (Dad made a point of explaining that it was a non-Lutheran numbering of the commandments with 2 being about graven images and 10 combining what we number 9&10 -the ones about coveting. But figured that there was no harm in my keeping it as long as I understood that.)
|Celebrating with family and friends after the program|
So forty years ago I finished the part of my education concerned with coloring inside the lines, knowing how to tie my shoes, and reciting my phone number and address. Time was spent learning to share and to listen and to do all the things you have to do to get by in school. I even got my first taste of being in the minority opinion, suffering through a December of being one of only two in the class who did not believe in Santa Claus.
At times my current vocation requires that I cut letters out of paper, color signs, count things, alphabetize things & occasionally even identify things by shape and color (it was a short book with a blue cover). At those times I will jokingly say to coworkers that my education has prepared me for this work. I am after all a kindergarten graduate.