When I was a child and summertime shifted to school time, I rebelled mightily. My mother would do everything but pour ice water on me to raise me from my bed. I fussed about my clothes. I didn’t like this color or that sock. My shoes were too clunky. I didn’t need a jacket. I dawdled at breakfast. I drug my feet right to the front door and down the sidewalk, across Hillside Drive, down the steps and past the estate along the shaded road leading to Hoover Elementary School.
My mother sent me out the door with a kiss and good wishes for the day, closed the door, prayed I would actually arrive at school, and waited for the principal’s phone call. In those days we children walked to neighborhood schools. No one worried about our being abducted. We children all converged onto one safe road that led past an estate whose grounds looked something like Calloway Gardens.
The estate’s grounds captivated me. I knew every hidden entrance, every hole in the fence, every break in the shrubbery. I allowed the estate gardens to abduct me on warm, sunny mornings. It was easy to succumb and slip away from my schoolmates and brothers. I’d sit down to tie my shoe or hang back while the others walked on ahead. Like Peter Rabbit I’d slip through shrubbery or squeeze through a gate to explore winding garden paths through boxwood mazes and perennial beds until the gardener caught me at the koi pond.
The gardener was a quiet Japanese man who, in broken English, always asked me why I wasn’t in school. I’d usually lie and say school was closed or school was opening later. Who knows what went on in the background. The mistress of the estate surely played a role. Perhaps she was the one who called Mr. Lyons, the principal, each time.
Mr. Lyons would eventually appear and walk me to school and my classroom. On my worst day-dreamy days, I’d do nothing but draw doodles all over my papers, write poems, or plot my next escape. I was eight years old and long term consequences about being unprepared for the world of work meant nothing to me. I was already reading Mother’s books and Daddy’s newspapers. Worksheets and beginner books bored me.
My sweet, cuddly second grade teacher once left her notebook on her desk. I saw her notes on me. I was apparently socially awkward, withdrawn, and recalcitrant. I preferred painting endlessly at the classroom easel and writing limericks. She had difficulty getting me to focus. I stared out the window. I wanted to skip recess. I passed all my tests and scored high on the California Achievement tests but wasted time in class.
My witchy, anxious-ridden third grade teacher slapped me for refusing to read aloud “Run, Spot, run. Stop, Spot, stop.” books. This stinging event happened in front of my reading circle group. I ran home and refused to ever return to school, ever again!
The slapping must have been the final straw for everyone. Mother put me in her Chevy and drove us to school where I sat in a reception area while she talked to Mr. Lyons in his office. Thereafter, I attended third grade at Hoover Elementary as Mr. Lyon’s special student in his office at my very own special desk.
Sometimes I still dawdled, but not so much. Sometimes I slipped into the estate garden but only to walk a purposeful detour along its more interesting paths to school. I didn’t want to be late and I didn’t want to disappoint Mr. Lyons.