Throughout my school years, I was always one of the oldest kids in my class. It started with my missing the fall birthday deadline for kindergarten. Actually, it started with being born in January.
I attended the morning kindergarten class and have memories of walking the ½ block alley to and from school. I don’t remember if I walked alone, with someone else, or if my mom walked with me. But, considering she had three tykes (that’s what she called them) home with her at the time, the chances are fairly good I did NOT get a family escort.
My typical school day routine included kindergarten, walking home, lunch, and then a nap. There was no negotiating about taking a nap. Everybody took a nap, including my mom who may have needed it more than or as much as we did.
With all my older siblings at school, that made me the oldest at home and also my mom’s little helper (or maybe her little shadow). I remember two ‘helper’ situations that occurred when my mom needed to take a phone call and I’m pretty sure both were for my dad’s insurance business.
In the years before answering machines, call waiting, and voicemail, phones used to ring… and ring… and ring. And they would ring (with one distinctive sound – no choosing a special ring tone) until the phone was answered, or the caller gave up trying and hung up. On this particular day the phone rang, and before my mom left to grab it, I was given the task to stir the scrambled eggs for lunch.
We had a little metal pan with a wooden handle that my mom used for making lunch-sized or smaller amounts of food. This pan was being used that day and I’m fairly certain I needed to stand on a chair to be at the right height to stir the eggs. I don’t remember if I knew how to turn off the gas stove, or if I did, if I understood that once it was off, the eggs would stop cooking. I just remember not wanting the scrambled eggs to burn (this might even have been part of my mom’s hurried instructions to me).
When the eggs were done, I took the pan off the stove and scanned the kitchen for a place to set it down. The pan was small enough for me to handle, but it was also very hot. From my age six perspective, I found the perfect spot at the perfect height. I chose one of the chrome kitchen chairs…to be more exact, the cushioned seat of the chair. Oh yeah, these chairs had plastic or vinyl covered cushions. I have a vague memory that as I set the pan down, it seemed to gently settle into the seat cushion. There also must have been a burning or melting plastic smell when I did this, but that isn’t part of my memory.
What I remember is my mom coming back into the kitchen and asking me, ‘Where are the scrambled eggs?”
I pointed to the chair. My horrified mom quickly went to retrieve the pan, and as she lifted the pan by the handle, a perfect melted circle of cushion came with it, leaving a perfect matching pan-sized circle hole in the chair. It was a chair we weren’t able to use again, until my dad re-cushioned it.
Another time, my mother was feeding butterscotch pudding (I remember the color and we only made the cooked variety) to my baby sister in her highchair. Again the phone rang. My mom handed me the bowl of butterscotch pudding to continue feeding my sister. With the bowl and spoon came strict instructions to spoon from underneath the pudding film or coating so that my sister wouldn’t choke. I had seen my mother do it many times, so I carefully followed her spoon instructions, scooping the pudding from the bowl to my sister, who kind of resembled a hungry little bird waiting anxiously for every spoonful. Only as I continued feeding her, it got more difficult for me to scoop from under the pudding and then I got a great idea. What if I stirred it all together? Wouldn’t that make everything all smooth? Well, of course I did it and of course, after only a few mouthfuls of pudding, my sister started choking. Again my mom was quick to the rescue.
A highlight of my kindergarten year was being chosen by one of the high school girls from the home economics class to model one of her sewn outfits in the high school fashion show. My very modest mother hadn’t thought to ask what I would be wearing when she gave her okay. She almost had a heart attack when I came parading down the runway in baby doll pajamas. After the show, I remember Mom saying something like, ‘What was she thinking letting a little girl show that much skin?”
I wish I had a picture of me in those baby doll pajamas, or at least a school picture from when I was in kindergarten, but I was sick on picture day. I know this because it’s the only time I remember the doctor coming to our house when I was sick. I remember him holding his black bag and standing next to the couch telling my mom I was too sick to go to school. Two things possibly happened after that – I cried and I was given 7up. The first one is a given. The second was our favorite sick remedy and the only time we got soda/pop – except for weddings and the yearly Lady Forester picnics. I’ll have to write about those two events another time.