Monday, March 3, 2008

How Did I Get Here? Where am I Going? Part IV

My first two or three years of elementary school are pretty much forgotten. I do remember the cafeteria smelling like steamed spinach. I remember running from boys. I remember frightening teachers in horn-rimmed glasses. I even remember the day in first grade when my mother had to bring clean underwear to school. That day was probably the beginning of my disrespect for authority. I knew the doors to the school were open. The teacher knew I need to use the restroom. Yet I was told I had to wait until the bell rang. I didn't make it & my respect for my teachers dwindled.

I liked the colors in the Dick and Jane readers. Yet I hated the words. They irritated me and so I did not want to read them. I was often reprimanded for not being able to sit and read like the other children. I wanted to color. I wanted to play with crayons and group them together in pleasing arrangements.

In third grade, I loved multiplication tables. I adored the grids we laid out and filled in with those beautiful numbers. What could be more fun than coloring in those grids? Who wants to sit and comprehend stories of the mundane lives of little girls and boys when one could draw grids and fill them in? And then there were the cursive writing lessons. But why? I can already write. I can already get my point across. And frankly, I could already type. My grandmother (see How Did I get here? Where am I going, Part I) had an ancient typewriter that I was obsessed with. I could already make carbon copies and change the ribbon. Who wanted to bother with cursive writing? Big, blocky letters were much more appealing.

I was pulled aside from what the other kids were doing. Those other kids who had taken to cursive writing. Who did not get "needs improvement" marks for failing to grasp cursive writing. I got to sit all alone and trace letters with my fingers on these terrible boards. They felt like sandpaper. I was repulsed by their texture. I stopped tracing. The teacher got irritated. My mother was notified. I was forced to trace more. I still get chills through my body when I recall that feeling in my finger tips. I was already a lover of fabric and its many pleasing textures. I did not want to trace letters on sandpaper. I got another "needs improvement" mark. My mother was notified.

There was a discussion between my mother and some unremembered being (teacher, doctor). There were concerns about my ability to learn. Hey! I was great with those multiplication tables! Remember. I remember my mother saying that I was quite immature. Well . . . . I did still like to play with blocks. My favorite activity. I suppose I should have been using science kits, assembling kites, writing letters to the editor. I liked blocks.

I remember being busted for playing with Tinker Toys when I was 9. I was made to feel that I should be embarrased. And it seemed that I didn't even have the ability to construct with them. I was just laying them out in the floor. What my mother did not notice, was that I was designing a city. There were floor plans for office buildings, restaurants, and stores, I had parking lots and streets. Yes, I knew how I was supposed to use dominoes, but they made good cars & from them I learned about road widths and traffic flow. I used Legos to construct bridges. And when my family traveled, I took a pegboard toy I had as a young child. I used the pegs to layout roads & intersections. I could have been a transportation engineer! But I felt I was a stupid kid to couldn't write or comprehend a Dick and Jane story.

All of that blah, blah, blah, just to get to this point. Looking back, I can see the colorful, graphic, gridded beauty that I was able to appreciate. It is part of who I am now. Perhaps if our school had had a counselor, it could have been pointed out that I was not really an idiot. That I just had a few special needs. The need to create. The need to learn using color and shape. The need to stop tracing over those horrible boards. Brrrrrrrr. I still get the chills.

The photo above is the inside of my daughter's Lego chest. She doesn't play with them much anymore. She is only six. She has at least 70 years of Lego-playing time ahead. I'm gonna dump those things out this afternoon and play with them.

1 comment:

Nellie's Needles said...

It just amazes me how we persist and overcome to be our own unique selves in spite of obstacles.

Not having brothers while I was young meant not having those building type toys around. As an adult I've loved playing with my nephew's and then my son's and now my grandson's toys ... especially the legos. I look forward to trips to the Lego store in Chicago. I cannot even imagine Legoland.