It seemed like a regular Friday. We had alphabet, milk break and recess just like every regular day. After recess we’d normally just sit and draw or play and wait to get ready for the bus. Miss McNanny announced after recess that we should each pick a partner for “something special”.
That was an easy one, Steve Mohr. He was the kid that came up to me on the first day of kindergarten and asked “Do you want to be best friends?” and I said, “Yeah.” It was then official, we WERE best friends so he was my pick and I was his. Simple, right? Nope. It turned out that Wanda McKnight’s (or maybe it was Wendy they were identical twins and I just called them both McKnight) twin was sick that day so she didn’t have a partner so she got put with us. Steve and I shrugged and welcomed her aboard for the “something special”.
The bus was ready to take us home so the “something special” was apparently “something secret” that we’d have to wait until Monday to find out about. I think I was learning so when Steve asked me all excited-like “what do you think this is all about” I had a genuine fear and my stomach got a hard knot in it and I just stared out the bus window wondering.
The weekend was mine and I did not even think about school. Saturday morning cartoons with super sugary cereal then exploring the woods or a construction site. The neighborhood kids were always around and even though they liked to tease me they’d always teach me something or make me laugh, too.
Monday morning rolls around and I think about feigning ill health in hopes that the returning twin would get put in my place but I couldn’t do that to my best friend. He’s surely counting on me. To the bus stop. *sigh*
The big announcement: We are going to put on a circus. The kids all cheered except for me and the 7 year old. This is going to be bad. Very bad.
Just before recess everyone gets their circus assignments. Two kids were told they were elephants and they went out to recess. Two were tigers and they got released to recess. The two clowns got sent to recess along with the lions and monkeys, etcetera, etcetera.
Steve, McKnight and I are last and we get our assignments. “You are going to be the seals.” says Miss McNanny. Great. I begin to walk out to recess sans all forms of enthusiasm.
“Hold on,” she says. “You’ve got to practice.”
“But I want to go play with everyone else,” says me and even Steve started to protest. No one else had to practice. Just me and those affiliated with me. They were jinxed by association, I suppose.
“Don’t you want to do something special? More special than recess?”
“Ummm. No?” and I look to Steve for backup. He shrugs and looks down.
Miss McNanny had us throw a ball back and forth and after she watches us do it she must have though I wasn’t a good at playing catch because she tells me “You’re going to be the SEAL TRAINER! 😕
Now I was only 4 but I wasn’t stupid. I knew there were elephant trainers and lion trainers but I had never in my life heard of a seal trainer. What in the world was this lady smoking?!? We were just a few years out of the 1960s but come on!
For the next TWO WEEKS Steve, McKnight and I didn’t have recess and I’m going to be honest I was angry like the neighbors cat that I tried to teach to swim by dunking it in their pool. Steve and McKnight had to perch themselves on milk crates and I had to tell them to throw the ball to each other. I did NOT have to be there. I could have been AT RECESS!!!!! They can throw the ball without me telling them. I was distracted by the gleeful screams and laughter which tauntingly echoed from the cement recess area from just outside the realm of the seal trainer. 🙁
I went through the “practice” day without recess in and day without recess out and on the last day Miss McNanny invited the kids in grade 1-4 to watch our final practice. It was a dress rehearsal so all the other kids got to walk in a circle with animal or clown masks on and the older kids all clapped. 😕 I was forced to wear a red paper hat and a coat that smelled like moth balls and bad breath and got a big bushy mustache taped under my nose. I looked just like the guy that used to sleep on the bus stop benches down town. He had a mustache and a stinky coat, too.
Then it was our turn and I was not about to perform for anyone so I refused. Miss McNanny pushed the ball to me and I pushed it back to her and crossed my arms. She kicked the ball and it swept my feet out from under me and I fell and all the older kids laughed at me. I tore my hat and mustache off and threw down the malodorous coat and went to the rest room and hid until the bus came.
On the next day we found out that Miss McNanny invited our parents to watch our Cirque Du ImbÃ©ciles. I was mortified. I already got laughed at once and I decided that was never going to happen again.
The other kids walked around the parents and received their applause and it was our turn again. Steve and McKnight had stockings over their faces and looked more like bank robbers than seals. I had on my torn up hat, mustache and smelly coat and I totally choked in front of the parents, I couldn’t even talk. I couldn’t even move. My mom was there and I froze. Miss McNanny had a little music maker that was playing circus music and I pretended to be interested in it so I wouldn’t have to do my act. She tried to shove me out. There was no way I was ever going to perform in front of people again in my entire life. I hid my face against the wall and only peeked out once when Miss McNanny took my place and told Steve and McKnight to throw the ball to each other.
The next school day was almost back to normal. Recess was again mine. I think Steve was a bit upset with me but we were still best friends. My mom didn’t disown me so it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen but I never could speak in front of people after that. I can still see those fat, dirty faces laughing at me when I get in front of people and I still freeze up.
Lesson learned: The clothes (and mustache) make the man into a nervous wreck.