Jeaninne is an award-winning fiction and essay writer who is the author of "Manuel's Murals."
Kindergarten, Fall of 1959
The day that will change the trajectory of my life has arrived. My mother, with a firm grip of my hand, is walking me to my first day of kindergarten through the steel post that divides the chain link fence into the fields of Walnut School. I am sporting a short pixie cut and a red shirtwaist dress with white sleeves and a white collar. The petticoat netting is scratching my legs as I walk. My spit curls are lacquered to both sides of my face with the setting gel, Dippity Doo. I can see my reflection through the shine of my black patent leather shoes. I can’t believe I am finally going to be a real student.
I was assigned a speech therapist through the summer because I couldn’t say my S-words without sticking my tongue through my teeth. My mother said I cured myself of that habit faster than you can recite “She sells seashells down by the seashore.” By September of 1959, I am more than ready to begin what will become my true calling in life.
We are standing outside of the classroom when my mother bends down to wipe her red lipstick mark off of my forehead. Tears are running down her cheeks as she says, “I feel like I’m losing my best friend.”
I wiggle out of her grasp and say, “Mommy, it’s going to be alright. I will see you again after school.”
Before she can hug me one more time, I have run into the arms of my new best friend, my teacher, Miss Wiese. I look back at my Jackie Kennedy lookalike mother with her short flip hairstyle, black high heels, and matching lime green jacket and pencil skirt. I want all the kids to know that the tall, beautiful woman standing in the doorway is my mother, so I yell back, “Bye-bye, mommy.”
I am walking the one block home with a classmate after the day has ended. We are giggling about the fresh smell of new books, the awful taste of sticky paste, and Miss Wiese’s pretty face. My mother greets me with a bear hug and a plate of graham crackers smothered in chocolate icing. I ramble off unrelated facts about being a kindergartner while I wash down the crackers with a cold glass of milk. I know this will be a day I will never forget.
Sixty years later, I still remember that day as I bend down to help my beautiful mother stand up into her walker. I hold back the tears because I don’t want her to see that I feel like I’m losing my best friend.
© 2019 Jeaninne Escallier Kato