We all remember something about our first day of school. Anxiety, friends, homework, rulers, (whether it’s the teacher or the measuring device) throwing up during the bus crash, and maybe even your teacher’s name. A few days ago, it took a little toe headed neighbor we will refer to as “Peanut” to conjure memories of my first day of kindergarten.
Driving down the street, I ran into our elementary aged neighbor and her father. They are both dead. (Ok, that’s a bad joke.) Actually, our neighbor, six years of age, was celebrating her first day of kindergarten. How could I not stop? (Her father, John, waved me down reminding me of Peanut’s first day, a day she will remember as the first day of an educational journey sometimes feeling as though it will never end.)
Quickly, I gathered my thoughts and came up with some rather common questions to ask and comments to add about anyones’ first day of anything.
Me: Hey, neighbor, how was your first day of school!?
Peanut: Good. (Classic one word child response.)
Me: Were you nervous?
Peanut: No. (Strike two)
(At that point, I thought I was out of questioning ammunition, but I remembered one more hard hitting inquiry before I could finish my interrogation.)
Me: What is your teacher’s name?
Peanut: (Spoken with a delightful smile.) Mr. Scuffington.
Me: Really? That’s a terrific name!
Peanut: (Laughing and breaking out in a grin reaching from east temple to west temple) Yeah!
Looking at her father, he and I shared a subtle laugh, and he only said, out of respect for Mr. Scuffington and his daughter, “I know, isn’t that great”?
Shouldn’t that name belong in a children’s book or on Sesame Street? The name made me swerve out of my conversation tactics, so, shrewd as she is, Peanut took hold of the reigns.
Peanut: Where were you going earlier when you blew right through the neighborhood?
Me: (Respecting her honesty regarding her first day of school, I could only be equally honest, thus making sure lying was not a common rule preached on this extremely important day of one’s life) I was just picking up birth control pills, and beer.
Me: (My ignorant thoughts became actual words) I was just heading to the drug store and grocery store. (Quickly trying to switch the subject back to her interest, I recalled some tidbits about my first day of school….quid pro quo.) Hey, I remember my first day of kindergarten.
Peanut: What happened?
Me: I threw up.
Peanut: For real?
Me: (This distraction was far more relevant than the former) Yes, for real.
Peanut: Did you go back home?
Me: No. My mom had made me a terrific lunch to fill my belly back up. But, it was the first and last time I’d throw up on the way to school. I was seventeen before that happened again.
Peanut: Do you remember your teacher’s name?
Me: No, I don’t, but I wish I did.
Our conversation, although brief, made me think of teachers’ names I might remember and the impact they had on my life. I couldn’t think of one name. There was, however, a slew of teachers I remember fondly, but it was the name, “Scuffington” which created the urge to ask others if they remembered any of their elementary teachers’ names.
The next morning, I called a friend of mine, who happens to be a teacher, asking him the same question. He whipped out four names with such rapid fire, there was no way I could think he was just making them up to entertain me.
Kindergarten: Ms. Hellbock (I wonder if she was a “Ms.” for a reason.)
First Grade: Mrs. Swank (I guess she drove a Corvette)
Second Grade: Ms. Noggle (maybe perfect for a Roald Dahl book)
Third Grade: Mr. Van Dong (I guess it took a male teacher to hit the grand slam of great names) I wonder if on the first day of school, Mr. Van Dong wrote his name on the board, quickly stating the correct pronunciation, which seems quite simple. “Good morning, Earthlings, my name is Mr. Van Dong. If you are uncomfortable with my name, as past students have been, you may refer to me as Mr. VD. Sometimes that’s easier to catch, I mean, remember.
Other than their names, my friend didn’t have much to say about the impact they may or may not have had on his life. I hope Mr. Scuffington plays a very positive role in Peanut’s life, and she remembers him for more than just his name, hopefully mirroring the positive role Peanut has played in this neighborhood, keeping smiles on all our faces. Additionally, I hope he drives his class more successfully than my bus driver could navigate a ditch.