My father drove me to the first day of kindergarten in his beaten, brown Toyota. It was the kind of car that looked like paint-eating termites had gone to town on the hood, and I was excited that he let me sit in the front, which wasn’t normally allowed because I was too small.
I was one of those peculiar children who couldn’t wait to start school. The church preschool I had been attending for two years offered a two, three, or four day a week program, and I had begged my mother to let me go more frequently than just twice a week. It hadn’t worked. I was too young to understand how lucky I was to have parents who wanted to spend time with me but, for some reason unknown to my older self, I loved preschool and class and everything that came with it.
I was thrilled to be going to kindergarten at Foster Park Elementary School, which meant I got to go to school Monday through Friday. My dad and I pulled in and, instead of just letting me out under the awning, he pulled into a parking space to walk with me to class. I may have protested; I was a precocious child but, if I did make a fuss, Dad wasn’t deterred. I think secretly I was glad he’d help me find my classroom, and I walked into the school holding his hand.
I may have been only entering kindergarten, but I already knew how to read. I wasn’t quite up to the classics just yet, but I wasn’t stuck in Picture Book Land either. Somehow, I had started reading when I was two years old and, though my vocabulary was still fairly rudimentary, I had a reasonable grasp on the alphabet and monosyllabic words.
As my father and I walked down what seemed to be the longest hallway in the world, I saw a sign on the opposite side of the hall. I tugged on my dad’s hand, pointing. “Daddy,” I said seriously, “Why does that sign say ‘OFF ICE’? Wouldn’t it be easier to say ‘OUT OF ICE’?” My father is a tall, dark man who seems quiet because he’s constantly surrounded by talking women, but on this day he laughed, loudly, and eventually subsided into chuckles as he told me that the sign read ‘OFFICE,’ then explained what that meant to a five year old girl who had little concept of cubicles and desks.