This memory is the one my children, nieces and nephews love to hear. Since my mom, their grandmother, passed away at the ripe young age of fifty-nine, they have few of their own memories of her, so they appreciate when my brothers and I share. My mother was a character. At times I will refer to her as Annie T – a term of endearment for her feisty spirit.
“So, Laurie Ann, how old are you now?” Mrs. Sullivan asked. My mother and I were at Shop-Rite on our weekly shopping visit. It was just the two of us, since my brothers were at school. Lucky me; this meant, I wouldn’t have to share the chocolate chip cookies.
“I’m four and a half. I’ll be five in October,” I shared, licking the melted chocolate from my fingers.
“How wonderful,” she smiled, “Soon you’ll be heading to kindergarten!”
I turned around in the shopping cart, in full view of both mothers, “No – I won’t be going to school. Mom said I can stay home with her instead,” I proudly announced, sneaking a glance at my mother to confirm what she promised.
“That’s right,” my mother responded, smiling at Mrs. Sullivan. “I told Laurie Ann if she doesn’t want to go to school, she doesn’t have to. She can just stay home with me.” Mrs. Sullivan returned her smile with a knowing nod, acknowledging this important fact.
That’s how it went from spring through summer. Everyone was asking me about school, while my mother and I firmly shared that I wouldn’t be going. We would remain partners at home, doing as we pleased. Playing cards, watching game shows, baking cupcakes, and eating baloney sandwiches. Imagine my surprise that September morning, when I woke up and heard her announce that it was time to get ready for school. A new dress, maroon with polka dots, hanging alongside patent leather shoes were at the ready, waiting to make their debut. Bewildered, I asked her why, insisting we already had this worked out. She casually mentioned that we had received a letter from my teacher inviting me in, and that maybe we should check it out. Smooth move – Annie T was always quick on her feet. Ok, I thought. This is only temporary. Once the teacher realizes her mistake, I’ll be back home in no time, playing with my dolls, picking up where we left off yesterday.
So, I went along with her game. I got dressed, ate breakfast, and posed for the usual “first-day of school” pictures alongside my brothers and neighboring friends. When the bus pulled up, I looked over at my mother. She assured me she would follow me to school. I quickly moved to a seat further back on the bus and watched her driving behind me, my eyes glued to our blue station wagon, never letting it out of my sight.
Bus number three pulled up, and true to her word, my mother was there to meet me. My brothers remained on the bus, waiting for the second stop at St James School. I’m sure they were snickering under their breath, imagining the next few scenes. After saying hello to other moms, and snatching a few more pictures, my mother took my hand, and together, like partners in crime, we walked through the vast doors of Memorial School. I was confident, or at least hoping, that in just a few short moments, the charade would be over.
It was a quick walk up the stairs followed by a hard right. There in front, ready to greet us was Mrs. Moorehead, a petite woman with a gentle face and warm smile. She reached out her hand to me to coax me into the classroom. Glued to my mother’s side, we inched forward. Under some mysterious spell, Mrs. Moorehead managed to shuffle me through the room to the other side, away from the door, where my mother remained. Wait a minute, I thought – what’s going on? With my eyes peeled on my mother, the teacher pinned on my name tag. But I’m not staying, I thought. My little heart was pounding in my head. Rather than exiting gracefully, my mother impishly waved at me and said, “Bye, bye, Laurie!” Frantic, I screamed – “No!” and began sobbing … uncontrollably at first, and then to a quiet whimper. According to my mother, I got over it pretty quickly. When I returned home later, she asked me, “How did you like school?” Not to her surprise, I replied, “I loved it!”
When asked why she maintained the charade for so many months, Annie T had a logical answer. “Why upset you for months on end, when it could be handled in one single moment,” she claimed in her matter-of-fact tone. “Besides, I knew you would end up loving school.” She had a point… The call to teach came later in my life, but mothers are always right.