As the Matron frantically juggles child and domestic duties with preparation for the new semester ahead (including two national conferences in February! one in Florida, thank Oprah-God-Buddha-Allah-Universe and anyone else), she's relying on a favorite old post for today. True story. Imagine being this first grader.
When the Matron was a Wee Miss, she skipped kindergarten and went right into the first grade, thanks to Era of Looser Policy and the very fine brain which is still serving her well (except when the hypochondriacal lobe takes over).
The week before that momentous event, Wee Miss's mother -- just 26 years old with three children - practiced the near-mile long walk to and from school with the great big 5 year old Wee Miss! Every day, Mother and Wee Miss walked down a long dirt driveway, took a right and walked 10 city blocks, took a left ("Where there will be crossing guards on Monday, I promise"), turned a sharp right on their heels at the corner, crossed a street and went right up to the front door. Then they practiced going home: straight to cross the street, quick left, turn left and walk 10 blocks to the driveway.
Wee Miss knew those steps as intimately as she knew her invisible Bear Family that went everywhere with her: Papa Art, Mama Jane, Little Art, and Janie. These bears were always at her side, rustling up trouble and going on tremendous Odyssey-like adventures that offered Wee Miss hours and hours of entertainment and escape.
Of course, only when she got older did she appreciate the deep-sea plumbing of the human psyche that gave allowed her child-self to give the imaginary family the names of the family she longed to be in -- that of her wealthy Uncle Art and Aunt Jane. But that's another story.
On the big day, Wee Miss - adorable as all get-out in a gingham dress and black patent leather shoes -- confidently waved good-bye to her weepy Mama and headed down that drive way. Right. March, march, march. Left. Cross the street. Sharp right! Cross and in!
She did it!
Wee Miss had a rock star first day! She adored every last little thing about Education -- from the graham cracker snack to the endless supply of Intellectual Task. Truly, mostly the Task. Indeed, forty (ahem) some years later, and she's still in a classroom.
At the end of the day, the class lined up and two straight lines of untested lives obediently trudged to the doorway, where the teacher set them free.
Wee Miss frowned. This doorway didn't look familiar. This spot? Was this the same door she entered?
It had been a long day and she was of Great Faith. So she crossed the street, took a sharp left to cross another, turned right and started walking.
And walking and walking and walking and walking and walking and walking and walking.
By the time she got four times as far as ten blocks, she knew she was in trouble. She knew she went out the wrong door. Wee Miss, five years old in blue gingham and braids, stopped walking and stood deep in the middle of a great big city with no idea where she was or where to go.
The Matron so remembers this little girl's feeling! She was horribly afraid and really wanted her mama, or at least to sit down and have a really BIG cry. But Wee Miss was overcome with certainty regarding her situation: she must take charge and be very very wise.
As she stood there, thinking, an idea came to her -- the idea came in so perfectly, all wrapped up and shining and singing to her: do this, do this!
Wee Miss decided she would find somebody else's mama to save her. She knew a mama was the key. So she started looking at yards, houses, sidewalks to see which ones held toys. Wee Miss actually walked past a few trim yards with a lone trike or doll. Insufficient evidence. She wanted guaranteed-bona fide Maternity by the barrels!
Finally, she saw the house! The yard was a wreck! Toy guns, buckets, shovels, balls, dolls, wagons, trains, trucks and tea sets! A mama lived here, for certain!
Wee Miss carefully climbed the stairs and rang the bell. Five children flew to the door at once.
"Mama! Mama! There's a little girl at the door! She's lost!" Children parted like the Red Sea and Moses appeared.
That mama swept up Wee Miss in a great big hug that was nearly the child's undoing. She handed her a cookie and poured the milk.
"Your poor mother is probably a nervous wreck!" The Mama lit a cigarette to contemplate. No Wee Miss didn't know her address or her phone number. All she knew was straight left, left, step.
The Mama slapped the table. "That's what we'll do! We'll drive to the elementary school, go to the right door -- why, we'll go to all the doors if you don't recognize one -- and we'll follow those directions!"
Then she stood up and her perfect, beautiful self said: "Let's go find your mother."
And they did! They piled in a station wagon like puppies. Drove to the school where the Wee Miss quickly identified the right door. And before they were five blocks down, the street was full of flashing red lights and patrol cars -- and her Mama! Only years late does the Matron appreciate that her mother had called the police and half the force was on the lookout for the missing five year old.
Hard to say who suffered most --the Mother or Wee Miss because both were pretty much puddles, as was the woman who saved the day. She and Wee Miss's Mama hugged for a long, long time.
And the next day, Wee Miss walked to school alone--with a note--and her teacher brought her to the right door.