During the first week of kindergarten, recess somewhat resembles that old seventies football board game with all the little metal players sitting on a tin field. You turn it on and herds of little painted men oscillate forward in commingling groupings of collapsing confusion. Into this melee throw basketballs, six students at a time climbing up the wrong ends of slides, and students with no English running around in glee as unheard teachers chase after with waving arms and unheeded pleas. I spent my own time plucking dangling five-year olds from the tops of slides, chanting out phrases as mantras, “bumper not tummy, feet first not behind, look before going, one at a time, don’t jump from that thing keep your feet on the ground, where did that come from please put it down.” One student went wandering right out of the playground, right through the gate near the back car lot. Then we saw Arnold Schwartzenegger come running across the grass, shouting, “I’ve got a ferret! I’ve got a ferret!” Or so we first thought. Turned out to be a rather tall, chunky kindergartner holding something of orangeish hue in his hands and yelling, “It’s not a carrot! It’s not a carrot!” None of us felt like investigating.
Yet all of this is a cake walk compared to dismissal. What exactly does “cake walk” mean? Do people take strolls along cake alleyways? Do they take a beloved cake for an afternoon saunter? Do daring adventurers canter across icing covered boston-cream pies? Is a boston cream pie indeed a pie and not a cake? Whatever the case may be, I’ve heard Vietnam veterans shudder in fear over the first week of dismissal for the Kindergarten Year. Armies of students might trample afoot, and adults think they’re safe, with shoulders aloof. Busses lined up, all ready to go. What could go wrong? Oh, wait, there’re kinders along. Grab hold of those backpacks, snatch hands and don’t wait, but please, oh, please, don’t they know where they belong? No? Oh, dear. Rush back to the rooms. Call one teacher, another. Who is this, and where do they go? Oh, please, but please, don’t they know what they’re called? A name? A nickname? A brother or sister? Don’t they know their teacher, or for the love of God a preacher? I don’t know where to go, I don’t know who to call, now they’ve taken off one shoe and are scampering down a hall. I’d chase after the one, but another kinder’s crying, that one’s tripped over their laces and I do believe she’s flying. Whatever the case may be, I’ve heard Vietnam vets shudder in fear, over the first week of dismissal for the Kindergarten Year.