I made it through the first few months unnoticed, which was the best possible situation for a student in her class. The two-story indoor wooden climbing structure kept me busy, and I cannot to this day forget the feel and texture of my silky quilted aqua-colored napping blankie. The toys with which we provided were ample and aesthetically sound, and the clever children kept themselves occupied for the majority of the three hour school day.
I learned how to stand in line and raise my hand, sing when I was asked, trace and cut with scissors, and how to find the bathroom on my own.
I didn't put enough glitter on my Halloween pumpkin to be showcased or featured - as evidenced by Heather Holt's own dazzling masterpiece, but by Thanksgiving, the art project was all mine:
My traced-hand rainbow-feathered turkey ruled the center spot on the show-off board; I was cruising.
Then came the Santa project.
You know the one.
I aced the cottonballs on the hat and on the beard. And then came the eyes. I had a strip of black paper, out of which I was supposed to cut Santa's two eyes.
I cut out one; it was perfect, so I set it aside.
I cut another; it was also perfect, so I set it next to my first perfect one.
They did not match up.
They were not the same size.
I had two nearly perfect eyes; each one small and black and nearly circular. But they were not the same size.
My parents happened to have a prominently-placed Modigliani print in the house which severely disturbed me because of her uneven eyes. I mean, come on, look:
Slightly disconcerting to see at breakfast every day from the age of three, perhaps?
(Yes, it really was in the breakfast room.)
So it was, for some reason, important to me that my two little black construction paper Santa eyes, did, in fact - match.
I tried again. One eye, cut carefully with blunt-end scissors and most likely a protruding and thoughtful -or desperate- tongue...and then another eye, which was also perfect and lovely in its own right...but not matching even one of the others.
This continued until I had at least 7 un-matching little black eyes.
I was tired, my chubby fists had just turned five years old, and my guard was down from Mrs. M. I had, in a small phrase, 'had it'.
In an unprecedented fit of frustrated aggravation, I threw my scissors down on the table. Hard. Threw them down.
I was in trouble.
Mrs. Masters saw it. She heard it. She came for me.
I was doomed to leave the group of the good children.
She came for me and I knew what was coming: I had seen it many times before.
She came at me from behind; I looked over my right shoulder just in time to notice her grabbing for my right ear. Which I instantly felt.
"WHAT IS THIS?" She shrieked, pointing accusingly at the thrown scissors.
"I-I-I---can't do it." I cried, snotty-faced and pointing at my discarded mismatched black eyes.
"They don't match!"
"WE! DO! NOT! THROW! SCISSORS!" She bellowed at me, as she waved the blunt-end scissors in my face.
"The eyes!" I pleaded, "I wanted to make them the same, but, but...buh..."
I sputtered...I was afraid that I would pee my pants if I went on...
"We DO NOT THROW SCISSORS!!!!!" She repeated, as I shivered.
She had never let go of my ear, but now she lifted, she yanked. I was standing, and she was dragging, dragging me by my ear towards the door. I was shamed. I was a Bad Kid.
Out to the hallway I was led by my right ear and an irate and decrepit teacher, and there I was left. At the mercy of the nail-filled, paddle-wielding principal. Which everyone knew to be true. Especially those of us with older siblings. Because, why would they lie to us about something that serious, right?
I was momentarily grateful when she released my ear (and with it, the rest of my body) with a flourish into the hallway and slammed the door between us.
I was alone in the hallway.
I was at one end of the hall. At the other end, was the ominous and fabled principal's office.
I had been in school for three months. I had just turned five.
And I was in trouble. Big Trouble.
I thought about the scissors. And the eyes. And I was truly sorry. But I didn't know how to get back into the room. I waited.
I waited some more.
Then I heard footsteps. They sounded Big, and they were coming from the opposite end of the building. You know - the office end.
On my left was a drinking fountain, protruding from the wall. One at which I had obediently lined up approximately 134 times. Under it was a hollow ceramic sink and some pipes. And I? I was a shrimp.
I scanned the interior of the ceramic drinking fountain, surveyed the heavy steps coming towards me and then I made a leap.
Up. Into the underside of the fountain. And I fit.
I pushed my feet against the pipe and wedged myself into the cold and bumpy ceramic innards. I could see nothing but the tan and grey tiles below. I tried to pull my feet up higher as I heard the footsteps coming unmistakably toward me....and then they slowed....oh-yes-they-did....they slowed down until I finally un-scrunched my eyes and looked down to see the two black loafers which belonged to the principal. They stopped in front of the drinking fountain. I was trying to pull my dangling tights-clad legs up into the piping, but it was too late. I had been noticed.
Tap tap tap....he knocked on the top of the ceramic.
Tap tap tap..."Who goes there?" He demanded.
He leaned over to see who was under there, and I felt it coming - I couldn't stop it - it rose up, made its way out of my mouth, and I vomited. Straight down onto the shoes.
He carefully pulled me out of the pipes, avoiding the puddle beneath me, and walked me by the hand, across the hall to the nurse's office. She gave him some towels to clean his shoes and told me to lie down on the green leatherette chaise. I curled up, scrunched my eyes shut again and waited.
My mother came to collect me and my stomach flu vanished as quickly as it had arrived.
One year later, I had the good fortune of having the nicest first grade teacher in the world. When Mrs. Trowbridge showed us all how to fold the paper over before cutting if we wanted two matching anythings, I was amazed at what I could create.
And I was pissed at Mrs. Masters.
I mean, how hard would it have been?