At six rears of age, a terrible fate fell upon the horizon. Something I had not been prepared for. After all, I was doing fine. Everything was going well. I was fulfilling every expectation, in my world, and felt no need for something called school.
I had to go to school? Are you telling me that knowing how to tie my own shoes, knowing how to say the Rosary, The Our Father, The Hail Mary and my way to and from church wasn’t enough? “Jesus Mary and Joseph” I was six years old and I was being treated like a child. Crap!
For weeks before the dreaded day I was sick to my stomach with the thought of going to school, whatever that was. Then the day I had been counting down to finally arrived.
My first day of school had come and I don’t mind telling you, I was apprehensive. To me, it seemed like punishment for something I didn’t know that I had done, some infraction. But what could it be? I had been doing all my chores, without fail. I was helping around the house. Doing dishes, polishing furniture, sweeping the porch, the stairs and all the side walks around the house. What ever it was, it was a bum rap.
Grandma got me up at Six, as usual. I dressed myself and tied my own shoes, then, we began to walk. Strangely enough we were walking in the same direction as we did when we would go to church. We walked by the Dr. Pepper Plant, (Not a bad soda, but, a little sweet for my taste) The Pontiac Dealership (I had my eye on a two door hard top) we passed Nino’s Coffee Shop and made a right turn and there she was. The Church! St. Mary’s! Is this what school is?
I had heard the sound of children coming from this building, next door, when we were in Church and I naturally thought it was another orphanage. I couldn’t help but wonder if these children knew how to tie their own shoes.
Grandma and I entered the building and climbed up three flights of stairs, to where a person called ‘The Principal’ had her office. This woman came out and said, “Well, hello little boy, ‘I looked around to see who she was referring to’ I am Sister Anastasia.” She was a, well proportioned, tall lady with a rather prominent mustache. I thought nothing of this because my Grandma also had a mustache. Sister Anastasia’s skin was a pale grayish brown color and she was wearing some sort of military looking outfit with a black vail and heavily starched little white brim! She wore a huge Rosary around her waste and looked as if she were a high ranking leader of some sort of Penguin Army.
Sister Anastasia had a somewhat detailed conversation with Grandma that must have been some sort of background on my capabilities and stature in my community. I was relieved that Grandma made no mention of my still sleeping in a crib. Then, she escorted us back down two flights of stairs to some kind of room called The First Grade. I was impressed that they were going to start me out an the top, me knowing how to tie my shoes, dress myself and all the words to The Hail Mary and The Our Father had obviously impressed the principal!
Another one of these penguin people came out of this, First Grade, room and Sister Anastasia introduced us to Sister Mary Margaret. Again, she was tall, in uniform, but, rather pretty, however, she was certainly not of a high rank and didn’t have the slightest sign of a proper mustache.
Sister Mary Margaret placed the palm of her left hand on the nape of my neck and gently swept me into a room full of children, seated at tiny desks. The place reeked of Corduroy, Brill Cream, with a slight back scent of vomit. There was also the scent of lead pencils. I liked it! However, all of these little twerps were wearing uniforms too. White tops and navy blue bottoms. I wanted one! And, I got one! Oh yes! This was going to be good and in no time at all I would holding seminars on tying ones shoes!