Between the Parkland students and the recent
teacher walkouts, I’ve been thinking about my school years. The children of today, are not allowed the innocence that
I had as a child. When I was 5 years old, I walked every day to Kindergarten. Unsupervised. My parents trusted my neighborhood,
trusted that I would get to school safely and return home safely. In the winter, my dad picked me up in the afternoon on his
way home from work. Not from fear, but to spare me the walk home in freezing weather.
At my 8-year-old niece’s birthday party, we got to sharing family
stories. (Like the Irish are wont to do.) Among the laughter, I shared about the time I took my 4-year-old cousin to school
for “Show ‘n Tell”. When I had told this story, the newer moms of today were shocked that our
parents had let a 5 and 4-year-old walk 5 blocks by themselves! That we had crossed streets unsupervised! I said, “Well
we weren’t idiots, we knew enough to look both ways.”
Those of us who grew up at that time remember street crossing. If you so much as saw
a car, you waited. No way did you want to get run over and killed dead!
I tend to not have much sympathy for the parents of children today in some
ways. They are so overprotective in some areas, and in other ways, not the least bit observant at all.
Back to my story of show and tell. The teacher said
we could bring our favorite toys, objects etc. from home to show and tell the class about.
My cousin Joey, was my best friend and playmate at
that time. He had been born almost a year after I had been born in January. Because our large family was centered around my
grandmother’s house, where I lived just upstairs, we literally grew up together. My starting school was a rather traumatic
event at the time for both of us. I missed him as much as he missed me. I had made friends, but none were my best friend.
Joe and I had been in two family weddings. He had
been the ring bearer to my flower girl role. He had worn a suit that had been bought for him and I had worn a beautiful white
dress that had been made for me by my mom. I’m not sure how I got it in my head that I should take Joe for show and
tell. But I remember the fuss that the whole family made over it. The little suit from the weddings was gotten out. It was
sent to the cleaners. It was the best thing he had to wear.
On Show ‘n Tell day, he was bathed, brushed, and trussed up in his little suit.
He looked like a little Oliver Hardy without the mustache. I too was put in my best school dress. I had suggested the white
flower girl dress. My mom said it wasn’t appropriate for school. I know that now but was a bit peeved at the time. Joe
got to wear his wedding suit! I dropped the argument though because Mom was doing my hair. If I made her angry while she was
doing that, I paid for it in a not so gentle hair brushing. Once the two of us were all “gussied up”, off we went.
Hand in hand. I was 5 and he was 4.
When we got to school, I was in a bit of trouble. You see, I hadn’t mentioned to my teacher that the item I
was bringing for show and tell was a human! This caused a minor issue for seating, she had to borrow a chair from another
classroom, and at milk and graham cracker time. I precociously told her it was ok. Joey and I would share mine. We were used
to sharing. When the time came, there we sat, two straws in one little milk carton with a half of a graham cracker broke in
half again. Happily munching and sipping.
At recess I eagerly showed him all the fun playground equipment we had to play on. I helped him up
on things he was too short for. We teeter tottered, went down the slide, and I pushed him on the swings. I made sure he got
to try everything. It was great showing my best friend all these wonderful things. The bell rang signaling recess was over.
We ran into the school.
moment had come. Show ‘n Tell time. While we waited for our turn, I groomed Joey. We had gotten mussed up a bit during
the day. We didn’t look near as good as we did when we left home that day. I licked my hand and smoothed his hair down
as best I could. Wiped his face with a Kleenex from the teacher’s desk.
Then it was our turn. Of course, by this time, the class knew who he was,
but I proceeded as if no one knew. I told his name as he stood silently next to me. That he was my cousin, how he was my best
friend. I told that the suit he was wearing had been worn in two weddings. I told of our adventures we had at home. About
the rocks that looked like sugar but did not taste like sugar. I can’t remember the entire speech, but I do remember
the teacher thanking me and our sitting down.
Not long after, the bell dismissing us for the day rang. Joe and I returned home hand in hand. Our
parents waiting for us. Grandma fixed dinner for all of us so we could share our day with everyone. We were bursting with
things to tell. In a way we had show and tell a second time. Only this time, Joe got to participate more than just standing
there while I talked.