In the spirit of Anne Lamott, I asked my students to do a version of her “school lunch” writing exercise.* Instead of school lunch, we wrote about kindergarten. In the exercise, she asks her students to write down everything they can remember about school lunch and then see what stands out that could be turned into its own story. In her example it was the ‘boy against the fence’ who popped out of nowhere. In mine, it was Dennis.
I don’t even remember his last name, but with his dark brown hair and deep blues eyes, he was the man – at least in kindergarten. In games of kissing tag, he was always my intended conquest.
You can imagine my thrill when we were made milk-buddies for the week. Everyday I walked to the lunch room with Dennis, entered the giant, dark, metal refrigerator, filled the milk crate with enough cartons for our class and carried it back to our classroom hand in hand….except for the milk crate between us. Our week together was bliss until the incident. The incident that scarred my kindergarten memories.
My teacher was only trying to keep us safe. Earlier in the week, a student, who had been running, collided with someone else and was badly hurt. She made a new rule: absolutely no running in the classroom.
In my exuberance to meet my milk buddy for our daily walk together, I scooted across the floor. I’m not sure you could really call it running….maybe more like race-walking. Either way, the teacher called it running and paddled me in front of everyone. Then sent me off in shame with my milk buddy, Dennis.
I was quiet as we walked down the hall that day. Then Dennis said the only three words I ever remember him saying to me, “did it hurt?”
“Did it hurt?” Not, “are you ok?” or “I’m sorry that happened to you. You most certainly weren’t running!” But, “did it hurt.” Like he was doing research to weigh the pros and cons of acting up in the future.
I told him that it embarrassed me more than hurt me, and we went on with our task.
I don’t remember pursuing Dennis much after our week as milk buddies.
I do remember the puffy alphabet letters….maybe a topic for another post.
*Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird c.1994