Metro-East Living

What I learned in kindergarten

Tribune News Service

“No more naps: Kindergarten students get right to work.” That headline in the May 13 News-Democrat grabbed my attention.

Wait a minute, mister. No more naps for kindergarteners? This comes after I suggested to my boss that a 15-minute nap in my daily work routine would make me much more productive and creative. He said he’d sleep on it.

Nap time was one of my favorite parts of kindergarten. I bought a little rag rug from home that I kept rolled up on the windowsill with all the other kids’ rolled up rugs. Mine left little rag rug marks on my face for a while after I got up. I never really slept. I always kept one eye open a slit just to see if the other kids were sleeping. I saw other slit eyes, too.

The article in the paper went on to say that “kindergarten is the new first grade.” Teachers prefer that the little tykes show up on the first day knowing how to count to 20 and have the alphabet down pat.

I could recite the alphabet OK when I started kindergarten, but I was under the impression that “elemenopee” was one letter. And, I still have trouble telling which comes first “w” or “v” without going through the song in my head from the beginning.

I won’t lie to you ... I don’t remember much about my own year in kindergarten. That was 60 years ago. But what I do remember is ... well ... glorious. Things like singing and stories and napping and new friends. And skipping.

I was the first in my family of eight kids to go to kindergarten. The rest of them — me, too — learned the basics from Mom and Pop. We learned to count, for example, by setting the table with 10 plates, 10 knives, 10 forks. And to add or subtract one or 2, depending on who was not there or who had a friend or two over for dinner.

Reading? What could be better than to crawl up onto Pop’s lap and read the Sunday funny papers with him. So what if some of the first words I knew were Arrrggghhh and Dagwood?

When I was 4, we moved from Mascoutah to Highland, and the big city had kindergarten. Neighbor kids were going, so I was going, too, although Mom wasn’t too thrilled about losing her last hang-out-the-wash buddy.

I don’t remember my teacher’s name, just that she had dark hair and smiled a lot. She played the piano. One of my favorite things was sitting in a circle around the upright piano and singing while she played. Each day, two lucky kids got to sit on the piano bench with her. What a treat!

I liked lining up single file, arm’s-length apart (measured by putting your hand on the shoulder of the kid in front of you) and going outside to play with new friends who didn’t live on 12th Street. Tommy, my new best friend, lived on Zschokke Street. No wonder Tommy could spell better than I could.

I was crushed to find out at kindergarten graduation that I was Catholic and Tommy was “public,” so we would be going to first grade at different schools. A tough lesson for a 5-year-old.

I liked storytime and making stuff, including the handprint plaque on pink clay that Mom and Pop kept hanging above the refrigerator until I went off to college.

Best of all, I remember skipping.

Some kids didn’t know how to skip, so we skippers got to teach them.

Sometimes we skipped out to recess. We had skipping races, although skipping isn’t meant to be competitive. It just makes you feel good.

You can’t skip without smiling. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait. ...

If you did, you probably feel so good, you’ll skip the rest of this column. But I’ll keep writing for those who think “I’m too (old, important, busy, proper, stiff — fill in the blank) to skip.”

When was the last time you skipped? Skip through the living room. Skip to church this morning. When you go out for your evening walk with Fido, skip for one block of it.

Trust me. You will feel great. The neighbor cutting his grass will wonder why you can’t get that silly smile off your face. When he finishes laughing at you, he won’t be able to get it off his either.

It’s just something I learned in kindergarten.

Between naps.