was an unmitigated disaster. My first day at school was not much better. I hated both.
I admire the self-possession of children who sail straight on in with apparent loads of self-confidence and super-inflated egos and find a 'best friend' on the very first day. No such luck for me. I did not want to be there and it was not just separation anxiety - why was my mother abandoning me yet again after not visiting during my stay in hospital? - or the fact that I kept on being knocked over by the 'big boys'. There was one with red hair and freckles and I suspect the infants teacher in the state school breathed a sigh of relief when he went to be hauled into line by the nuns - something I learned about later.
There was 'free play' in the sandpit and with a variety of larger wooden toys - no plastic back then. I promptly 'built a castle' by lining up some wooden bricks in a ragged square and told everyone I was getting inside it and nobody else could. No doubt a psychiatrist would make a lot of that. Then we had Story Time. It was Marjorie Flack's "The story about Ping" that day. I owned my own copy and I never did like the way that Ping got smacked. I always thought it was very unfair. At two and a half my sense of justice was already well developed. I was feeling cross about that and pretty miserable about the rest of it. There was worse to come. It was Fruit Time. This was the afternoon snack. Fruit was cut up and put on a large plate and you were given a piece. There was apple and banana - and orange.
I would have been fine with apple. I would have managed banana. I could not manage orange. My manual dexterity was still much too limited to hold anything without squeezing it. Squeeze an orange and you get - juice. Juice is sticky. Juice runs all over you. I could not help it. I got smacked for making a mess. I was told I could stay like that and not finish playing with the others.
I did not want to go back to kindergarten. I did of course. I never liked it because I never found a 'best friend' and, more than once, was smacked for 'being naughty' when I was told to do something and failed. If I was invited to birthday parties I was never allowed to go. I never went to play at the houses of other children although the two children in the house behind us sometimes came to us - probably because my mother was minding them for some reason.
Perhaps it was all because my mother was not coping well with me and my baby brother - and then the first of my baby sisters. It is more likely my mother told any teacher, "She can if she tries. She just doesn't try." It would have fitted her Christian Science philosophy. My father, teaching full time, trying to finish his university degree and obtain the "skill marks" needed for promotion (and the much needed extra money that would come with it) would not have been aware of what was going on.
When I tell people this story they say, "But you cannot possibly remember all that! You must be imagining it. Mothers are not like that." I can remember it. I can remember tiny details. I could tell you what I was wearing that day (brown corduroy overalls and a grey and blue striped pullover) . I can feel the slight grittiness of the floor and then, under my palms, the roughness of the hessian mats we sat on. Mine was bordered with some green, white and orange striped material.
I can remember the juice rolling down my hands as I tried to hold on to the piece of orange. I remember it every time I peel an orange - and yes, some mothers are like that. But, after that first day, I always had apple or banana.