When I was little, I was a Mama’s baby; I mean, a BIG Mama’s baby. At night, I sneaked into her bed to snuggle; in the daytime, I played near her while she read, typed or worked on bills. By age five, I didn’t mind playing in another room or outside in the backyard as long as I knew she was in the house. Her proximity was pure comfort to me. That was fine until the outside world started pulling me towards it. In other words: school.
Kindergarten, which was optional and private when I was young, didn’t work out too well. I cried and was miserable every time Mama dragged me into the car and deposited me at Humpty Dumpty College. I just didn’t want to be there even though I could endure a morning of coloring, songs and recess if I absolutely had to, though I think I might have sniffled my way through most of those hours. I was a homebody kid with a whole range of self-designed activities that kept me completely entertained with no distractions like other kids to mess up the fun. After all, there were already plenty of kids in my family – with four older siblings and one younger. The last thing I needed – at least in my mind – was more of a social life. So, Mama let me teach school to my imaginary students and play outside with my two imaginary friends in the pecan tree, whose various limbs constituted my imagery house. This was all well and good until the inevitable happened: 1st grade.
The first day of school in 1st grade was not good. I was assigned to walk with my older brother, George, who was in 4th to Bailey Inglish, which was about 5 blocks from home. I think I made it a block before I dissolved into tears and refused to go any further. George was forced to leave me squalling on the sidewalk and go get Mama, who then had to drive us to school since we were now going to be late. I got a stern talking-to about being a “big girl now” in the car and Mama escorted me to Mrs. Bradford’s room herself. I remembering looking around the big room with all the windows and thinking it seemed pleasant enough, and I loved the little desks and chairs. Mrs. Bradford seemed nice, too, but I wasn’t very happy when Mama left. I think I managed not to cry since I was trying to prove I was too old for that in a public place, but I’m sure I had to wipe away a few tears.
That first week was a tough one. Everyday I was fine when George and I left home and got progressively less fine the farther we walked. Mama, however, had told me in no uncertain terms that I better not ever make George come get her again. That was grounds for a spanking and she’d be happy to get a switch and make that happen. George was willing to walk with me until I started crying, then walked faster so my “big baby” ways didn’t embarrass him. Each day I made it a little further before the tears started to flow and by Friday, I made it all the way to school dry-eyed just so that George would walk alongside me instead of half a block in front. After Week One, I was fine. I enjoyed my walks with my big brother, looked forward to seeing my friends and was excited to learn more about the world beyond my home and backyard. I appreciate that my mother was both sensitive and firm. That made my transition from home to school a whole lot easier.
Upon reflection, I have to note that I am not very different today from that little 6-year-old self. I am still a homebody who loves my self-designed activities over any organized group event, and it remains a challenge to get me up and out of the house for a party or other group activity. Still, once out, I tend to have a good time and enjoy the places I go and the people I meet. I still miss my mother everyday and I wish George were around to keep me company on walks, but I have long since accepted that my many happy memories will have to suffice. However, I still enjoy my imaginary friends and their adventures. The only difference is that at age six all of those stories stayed only in my head; now I get to write them down.