What I remember:
I was delighted to be in kindergarten. For the first time, I was around other kids. There had been only one other child in my neighborhood, Melissa, the granddaughter of our next door neighbor. She rarely came to visit on our street and only wanted to play dolls. Phooey. Boring.
My first kindergarten was located in a sylvan glen in Cloverdale, a section of Montgomery, Alabama. We played music (hitting sticks together), marched around the room and sang. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah”, “Three Little Fishes”, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window”. Most of these songs I already knew, like many of the other kids. It was great fun.
I had been reading already and liked that there were so many new-to-me books there. The teachers didn’t like me reading the books myself and said that I might tear them. The books were for THEM to read aloud to all the children. I then remembered that I drew in all the books we had at home, even Uncle Luther’s, which made Mom upset. So I understood.
They put down little blankets on the floor every day and we were to lie down and take naps. I wasn’t ever sleepy and so would talk to the curly headed girl next to me. They moved her to another blanket. So I talked to her replacement on the next blanket.
The teachers and I REALLY disagreed on writing eights. I insisted on putting a smaller circle on top of a larger circle. It looked neat that way. This made the older teacher VERY mad. Everyone else was using one line to make the eights correctly. This was the Palmer Method, she said. She drew a big red X over my eights. Didn’t they understand mine was prettier?
At playtime, we went outside. I regularly organized the other kids to play “Pirates” on the Jungle Gym or “Cowboys & Indians” instead of Red Rover or Ring Around the Rosie. The other kids particularly enjoyed “Pirates”. There were a lotsa pirate movies and westerns then. Following the movie plots, on one side were the pirates and the other side were the British. The divisions of “Cowboys & Indians” was obvious, although some of the boys wanted to be “scouts”, which meant they were Indians who were really cowboys… Organizing this was a little more difficult.
I was moved to a second kindergarten.
What my Mom remembers:
Mom rarely picked me up from kindergarten, Mammaw did instead. Hence the notes. Mom began to receive notes from Mrs. Benson and Miss Bend (she had never forgotten their names) saying that I was a very smart little girl but I had difficulty “minding”. I wasn’t entirely misbehaving, just being difficult.
She set me down and said in no uncertain terms that I had to do EVERYTHING the teachers said. I shouldn’t contradict them. I shouldn’t talk back. I wasn’t to act like a smartmouth. (She was assuming I was acting toward them like I did toward her.)
Finally Mom was officially called to the kindergarten after hours. They informed Mom that they had to let me go. They advised Mom that I needed psychiatric help. They went into detail. I was obviously a VERY DISTURBED child. No doubt, they said, this stemmed from my “unusual background” (Mom was divorced.). Mom was furious.
So she went in tears to Dr. Ted Marrs, my pediatrician. Dr. Marrs knew me well. I had had mumps, chicken pox, measles, lice (from Melissa), serious sunburn, and had once gotten a whole plum caught in my throat. I had stepped on a nail one summer & my foot blew up like a balloon. We were constantly in the waiting room.
Once when Mom thought I was “nervous”, Dr. Ted investigated and found that at 3 yrs. old, I had caffeine nerves. Both my grandfather and my mother were unknowingly giving me a cup of coffee/milk mixture every morning. The family tale was that Dr. Marrs hypnotized me into hating the taste of coffee. I certainly did – for the rest of my life a tea drinker.
Dr. Ted heard the kindergarten story out and burst into laughter. He said those teachers didn’t appreciate my “budding leadership skills or creativity”. The other children were obviously more interested in playing the games I thought up than theirs. Not to worry, just put her into another kindergarten.
Mom was both miffed and relieved. Miffed that Dr. Ted would laugh at her and this serious problem, and relieved that I was not crazy.
What I remember:
In the years that followed, there has been some dispute about the validity of this diagnosis.