They say that youth is wasted on the young. Likewise, I believe that
kindergarten is wasted on kindergartners. Not that kindergartners aren't as cute
as kittens, but we adults stand to gain more from the experience.
This past weekend, I was treated to a tour of a kindergarten classroom. The kids weren't there, but pixie dust still fluttered in the air. I had seen kindergarten classes before, but this visit was special. Maybe because it had been a hard week with too many grownup issues.
A kindergarten wall is not like a normal wall. A normal wall is Navajo white and garnished with a picture; a kindergarten wall crawls with ideas. When I entered the classroom, the first thing I noticed was a wall dedicated to apples. Why not? There were apples to name the days of the week, apples to help you count past ten, even apples where you can write your name. How many types of apples can you name?
Ranging across the floor was a larger-than-life rug with a miniature city painted over it. Sometimes you're allowed to take out the plastic cars and drive them all over town without ever stopping for gas. Lucky for me, there was no violation for running over buildings.
On the teacher's desk was a pyramid of ink pads and every stamp you can imagine. I reached into the animal stamps and pulled out a duck. Above the duck were the words Great Job! Wouldn't it be great if our boss had one of those? I moistened the great-job-duck in yellow ink and found that it smelled like bananas. Why not? I sampled all of the colors. The blue ink smelled like blueberry. The red ink smelled like strawberry. The green ink smelled like shnozberry.
At the front of the classroom stood a large easel headed DAILY NEWS. Below it was a list of student accomplishments. I saw that Jonathan had spelled his name correctly and that Laura had sculpted her mom with Play-Doh and that Ryan had used his words to get along with Sarah. How's that for news? Beats the eleven o'clock massacre that I've been watching. So it goes.
For those who are inflicted with being too grown up, there is a medical attendant by the name of Doctor Seuss. He prescribes stories. He understands that the real world is just a figment of our lack of imagination. He tells of the Sneetches and their silly tattoos, of the Lorax who speaks for the trees, and of the cat who finally tries green eggs to find out what a fuddy-duddy he had been.
In the corner sat a giganstrous -- yes, giganstrous -- box of Legos. What have we done to replace Legos in our lives? Everyone should have a corner where they can sit down and build whatever comes to mind. In the opposite corner was a booth holding 26 puppets, one for each letter for the alphabet. The G was a giraffe who makes the guh sound. The Z was a zebra who makes the zuh sound, the F was a frog... Who wants to guess what the K was? I see that Ms. Baker has her hand up. That's right. It's a kuh-angaroo.
Running alongside the chalkboard was an inchworm who measures the progress of the school year. Every night, when no one is looking, his rear end wiggles out a little longer to indicate the completion of a school day. When he extends to the very end of the chalkboard, it means the year is over. On the weekend, the inch worm wiggles twice (he doesn't demand that we labor every step of the way). For students who are fuzzy on the concept of weekend, the teacher says on Friday that they'll meet again "after two sleeps." Has a nice ring, doesn't it? See ya in two sleeps.
Then, of course, is share time. When the speaker assumes the Sharing Throne, the rest of us sit quietly on the city and keep our hands to ourselves. If we're lucky, the teacher will write our name on the board for following directions. If everyone behaves, we'll get a song and dance. We can sing about an octopus swimming through the food chain or a pizza with a thousand toppings. The only rule is that everyone must sing. Because it is kindergarten, the entire universe comes alive in celebration. Doctor Seuss cuts a rug with the H-for-horse puppet. Cars dash around town on the rug below. The inch worm wriggles his derrière. Play-Doh moms come out of Lego houses. And everywhere you look, the teacher is smiling to let you know that it's okay. Play...Play!
Finally the day comes to an end, and our other parents come to get us. We're already thinking about tomorrow, when we will hatch chickens and witness the miracle of creation. It's only one sleep away.
Kindergarten is not about the trifles that occupy our adult lives. It's about joy and impossibility. And if you ask me, it should come after college.