Monday, October 22, 2012

"Answer me these questions three...."

In our modern and enlightened era it is considered bad form to send children, boys in particular, to kindergarten at a young age.  Five might be too early.  Six is better.  I suppose soon we will be having people wave it off to age seven.  The reasons are various and you may find some of them more persuasive than others.  Boys mature emotionally at a later age (if at all).  It would be hard on their egos to be the youngest one, the latest to drive, the shortest kid asking a girl to prom.  We want to have a high school football team with physiques like Arnold Schwartzenegger and beards like Z.Z. Top.

Whatever.  None of our three boys went to school "early", two had summer birthdays and went at age six, one more helpfully arrived in the winter months and went at five and a half.  But it was not always thus....

I have a vivid memory of going to the headquarters of the Minneapolis Public Schools when I was four years old.  Mind you, I was not turning five until mid winter.  Although not unheard of, going to school at this tender an age was a little unusual and I guess they wanted a look at me.

Not very much of me showed over the top of the grey steel desk of some School System functionary.  I recall it as being a middle aged woman who seemed only mildly interested in the matter.  I expect, and frankly actually hope, that there was some formal testing involved.  In the same situation I would have also asked a few pertinent questions about potty training and whether this little shrimp was prone to biting or anything.  None of this do I remember, but it seems likely that I was left to idle away a few minutes in some ante chamber while Matters were Discussed.

But I do remember one small detail that I have long concluded was the decisive, the final test of my mettle.

There was a box of crayons on the desk of the apparatchik.  They were square crayons.  I was asked:

     "Why are the crayons square?"

I suppose in my crafty later years, say fourth grade or so, I would have suspected a trick and tried to figure out what this lady was really looking for.  But I hope I can be excused a relative lack of guile when I was some 56 or 57 months old.

     "So that they fit in the box better".

It was deemed a reasonable answer, although I discovered many, many years later that kindergarten crayons were square so they were less likely to roll off the desk and get lost.

I wonder sometimes if my life would had been much different if I had simply played dumb, shrugged my shoulders and perhaps picked my nose for dramatic effect.  Another year of watching Captain Kangaroo and eating sucrose laden cereal mid morning?  Would I have made different decisions had I not always, always been the youngest and usually shortest guy in my grade?  I probably would not have been a wrestler, my pugnacity greatly exceeding my poundage in high school.  I might well have considered alternative career options....what genius idea was it to send a 17 year old naif off to college to figure out what to major in?  I am at times a foolish romantic, so I will accept as a given that I would be married to the same spouse as in the current time line.  She was after all attending the same college a few years after me, and it was only a fortuitous dog walk that brought us together......

Monty Python...these questions three...

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