Journey to Hopiland – Alone in Kindergarten
This is the first story in the series I began two weeks ago with the poetic story of my birth. This is a story I have told to children in schools. Your children may enjoy this story too.
The fun days of summer were coming to an end but Denise was not sad. Sure, she would miss the afternoon concerts at Lake Superior with Mama and wouldn’t be able to spend the night with Mama’s friend, Mary. Denise did enjoy spending time alone with a grown lady eating Chinese food, and sleeping in her big bed. But, beginning kindergarten was even more exciting and special. She was away from her sisters, Sherri and Lisa’s arguments and baby Boo-Boo’s crying. But, she was home in the afternoon to watch the Howdy Doody Show and Popeye.
When they first moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Mobile, Alabama, Denise wanted to play in the school’s large playground with swings, slides, and merry-go-round. But, Mama told her the playground was just for school children. Now, she was able to play there. Every morning Mama walked her to the school, came back at noon, and they walked back home.
One mornng, Mama left Denise at the entrance of the school as she went to “get her hair done.” As Denise walked through the long, dark hall, she saw older boys and girls but not any of her classmates. When she opened her classroom door and didn’t see any one, not even Sister Marie Therese, she thought, Mama must have brought me to school early. She hung up her coat and looked around the large, open classroom. Each corner of the room was a special area, one for reading books, one for coloring books, one for arts and crafts, and one for games. The middle of the room was filled with round tables and chairs and against the back wall sat a piano.
Denise headed straight to the reading area. Even though, she couldn’t read many words, Denise loved books. As long as she could remember, Mama read books to Denise and her sisters. She taught Denise the alphabet so she was ready to learn to read when she began kindergarten. Sitting on a pillow, Denise lost herself in the colorful worlds of the picture books. She stretched out on the floor and slowly looked through all of the books she had wanted to read but not been able to before. After awhile she realized she was tired of reading and looked around the room. Still no one had come in the classroom. This is strange, Denise thought and wondered where everyone was.
Coloring books called out to her as she looked around the room for something new to do. She found a jungle coloring book filled with pages of animals and plants. The page she chose to color was a picture of a lion, elephant, trees, and flowers. She colored as carefully as she could. All of the colors stayed within the lines. When she finished coloring she felt very proud of her work and wanted to show it off but still no one was in the classroom. Denise couldn’t tell time, but she felt she had been alone a long time. So, she got up and walked to the window to see if her teacher and classmates were outside. Many children were playing outside but none of them were her classmates.
Now what can I do, Denise thought. She looked around the room until her eyes settled on the old upright piano sitting in the back of the room. When Sister Marie Therese was there she didn’t let any children touch the piano. But, since Denise was all alone, she decided no one would mind if she played. The piano stool was too tall for her to get on, so she pushed a chair next to it, stood on the chair, and slid onto the stool. Denise had never played a piano and was excited. Loudly, with both hands she hit the keys, then stopped immediately and looked around the room. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her loud banging hadn’t brought in anyone. Then she began to play one key at a time starting at the lowest keys and traveling to the highest. She experimented with keys, playing more than one at a time, playing fast, then very slowly but always softly. She didn’t want to get in trouble if her teacher came in. Time passed as she played on the piano. Then she stopped, looked around and said aloud, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom.”
Usually when she said that Sister Marie Therese would take her and other students to the bathroom. But Sister wasn’t in the classroom. Denise was all alone. Students weren’t allowed in the hall without a teacher or hall pass. But, she couldn’t wait any longer. Denise slid off of the piano stool and cracked open the door, looked up and down the hallway, and saw it was empty. Quickly she ran to the bathroom. Just as she was preparing to run back to the classroom a nun appeared, it seemed, from thin air and grabbed her hand. Denise looked up and saw the stern, unsmiling face of the principal.
“What are you doing in the hall alone?”
“I had to go to the bathroom.”
“Your teacher let you go alone?”
“Where is your teacher?”
“I don’t know.”
“Who is your teacher?”
“Sister Marie Therese.”
“Oh,” said the principal as she placed her hand over her mouth as if she was surprised. Just then the outside door opened, Mama entered, and walked toward them.
“Mrs. Alexander, I am so sorry,” the principal said. “Sister Marie Therese was not here today. We thought the secretary called everyone last night.”
Denise’s mother smiled, paused a moment, and then said, “We were out late last night, so we missed her call.” She looked at her daughter, “You stayed in the classroom all this time by yourself?”
“Uh huh and I had fun all by myself,” Denise said as she took her mother’s hand and led her into the classroom. “See what I colored.” Proudly Denise showed her mother the page she had colored.