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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

School Days

 When I was a child, kindergarten was not a requirement. It was just for rich kids, and there weren't any in my neighborhood. There was no pre-k or head start program or Mother's Day Out. We stayed home with our mothers until we turned 6 years old, at which time we started first grade at Seth Ward Elementary.
Seth Ward school was a beautiful old red brick one story structure, that only held first through third grade. The principal, Miss Windwehein, was also the third grade teacher and she taught me, as well as my seven older siblings. Needless to say, she became well acquainted with my parents. Miss Windwehein liked some of my brothers well enough, she "red shirted" them and kept them an extra year.
 I remember thinking she must be a hundred years old, but when she died, at the age of 91, I did the math and realized when I was in her class, she was only 57. Even though I was a little afraid of her, I know she was a good teacher. She had no quotas to meet or politicians to please. Her only concern was teaching children.
 I also recall, all three teachers had an American flag in their classroom, but Miss Windwehein's had only 48 stars. She didn't see any reason to waste money on a new one just because Alaska and Hawaii had joined the Union.
The windows of my first grade classroom looked out on the playground, with it's 8 foot slide, tall swings and two jagged metal merry- go- rounds. Those things, along with the splintering wooden seats of the seesaws, would be considered a death trap by today's overly cautious parents.
 I watched the leaves swirl and fall on that playground in the Autumn of my first school year. I saw the windows plastered with black cats and jack-o-lanterns, only to be replaced by turkeys and Pilgrims. I was sitting by that window when my teacher tearfully announced our president had been shot and killed.
 I watched as the sky grew dark and heavy with the Spring storms rolling in. When I think of these things now, I can still hear the hollow clanging of the flag pole and Old Glory flapping in  the wind.
They tore the old school down while no one was looking. I went by there one day and it was gone. I imagined myself chained to the doors in protest, but it was too late.The red brick school house was just a memory now.

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A wife, mother, and spoiler of small dogs, I grew up in a small West Texas town, with my eyes full of sand, and my heart full of joy.


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