To start with – I just found out my first grade teacher is now reading these wacky entries, so this one is dedicated to Mrs. Seaton, the woman who really got me interested in the written word that has so shaped me ever since.
A little bit of background… when I was six I got stitches in my knee. Kneeling in tall grass, we never knew what it was that sliced my knee open, but it was clean and pretty deep, so two stitches held my skin back together so I could heal, my first set of stitches.
For the next week I was limited on what I could do, so I was slowly filling and burbling with energy that couldn’t be released or burned off. I was a tiny Vesuvius of energy potential, and the world was my Pompeii, sitting around and unaware of the danger I represented.
First grade was when I really threw myself into the written word. Kindergarten I learned the basics of reading, but between the wonder of the library and the example set by my teacher that next year, that was how I fell deeply into it. Regularly we would memorize and recite simple poems, which is where we tie into our story in progress.
Pent up energy. Wounded knee. Poetry. What could go wrong?
The poem that week was about a kite and the winds that it played about with. As we each got up, one by one to recite it, we got lost in the story. I remember my friend Christy being “blown about” as if she were the kite, and our teacher was pretty entertained, never knowing how it was going to go downhill.
Why? Because first graders are weirdly competitive, with no sense of restraint or self-consciousness that would develop later to help keep us from over-expressing ourselves. And I was one of the worst of the lot – I knew nothing of shame, just the joy of being over the top. To say I was a ham would be a massive understatement. I was an utter diva, always ready to take center stage.
So successively you would see student after student get blustered about with growing enthusiasm. When I look back on this I can see what I missed in the moment, the expression on Mrs. Seaton’s face continued to become both more bemused but also marred by a slowly dawning sense of apprehension at our increasing lack of restraint. She really didn’t want to shut down our appreciation of the poem, but somehow this was going to end in tears. Spoiler: They were my tears.
My turn finally came up and as I uttered the words the gentle breezes of the poem’s kite-based-protagonist became the category 5 force winds of Hurricane Colleen! At the close of the short recitation I flung myself across the front of the classroom with wild abandon… and tripped over my own feet. HA!
Then I landed on the split knee, cracked that fresh scab under the stitches open (luckily not popping any stitches), allowing me a scream of terror, a wash of blood, and a look of well-contained horror on Mrs Seaton’s face… as she calmly cleaned me up – I swear she muttered that she knew something was going to go wrong – and hustled me off to the nurse’s office. I was not a stranger to the nurse’s office, where we made sure things were closing up again, bandaged, and sternly warned about my limits.
Did I learn anything? Of course not! I was six! But in retrospect, it makes a great start for my motto of how, when you can’t be a good example, you should make an excellent cautionary tale.