Kindergarten, Captain Kangaroo and Culture Shock

I recently saw a writing prompt that took me back a very long way.  Kindergarten.  That’s really ancient history in my case.  My kindergarten experience was odd, yet wonderful. 
 

My mother married her 3rd husband the year I turned 5.  I liked him very much. They met at the factory they worked in. We lived in a small 1-bedroom apartment over a garage in town.  I’d slept on the pullout sofa since he moved in. 

Kindergarten wasn’t required back then as it is now.  There wasn’t even a kindergarten class available in the public school we lived near.  I was an avid fan of books, Captain Kangaroo and The Micky Mouse Club.  I knew about school and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to go.  It was disappointing having to wait another year.

good old Captain Kangaroo and Bunny Rabbit

Then something wonderful happened.  Both parents were switched to 3rd shift.  Working 11pm to 7am meant taking care of a 5 year old was going to be a problem.  I recall lots of discussion about what to do with the kid.  

I don’t remember any of the details, but this became life altering for me.  Apparently my great aunt Barb’s sister-in-law and husband, who were probably in their 60’s, offered to take me.  I had never met them and neither had my mother. 

I loved aunt Barb, who I was named after. I suppose everyone just expected it would be fine to move me out to the country. That was one move I have never regretted.  

I suffered a bit of culture shock when I first arrived.  I had never had a big yard to play in.  Even my grandparents lived in the city then.  The house was so beautiful I was afraid to touch anything.  It wasn’t palatial by any means, but so pristinely inviting.  
There was a vase of flowers on the kitchen table.  I knew they must have come from the beautiful flower garden I’d seen next to their driveway.  I could smell fresh coffee and the wonderful aroma of warm muffins.  A clock on the living room mantle startled me when it chimed on the hour.  I grew to love that chime. 
It took me about two seconds to fall in love with my bedroom.  It was the most beautiful room I had ever seen, and it was mine alone.  The house was a Cape Cod style and my room was up under the eaves.  The ceiling sloped on both sides and there was a nice sized window at each end. 
There were twin beds so I alternated beds for a while until Minnie, the lady of the house, told me I had to choose one because she wasn’t interested in washing extra sheets each week.  I complied.
The biggest shock was my first breakfast there.  I was used to making my own cereal or just sitting in front of the TV eating it out of the box.  My mother wasn’t a morning person and I didn’t mind it.
I woke the first morning to the smell of coffee and something else that made me salivate… was it pancakes?  I ran downstairs and stopped dead at the kitchen door.
The table was dressed in a pale yellow cloth, the flowers were in the center and there were 3 place settings.  Each place had a small glass of orange juice, a plate, silverware and a cloth napkin.  Wow.  I’d seen something like that in a movie once.
Minnie was humming at the stove, Delmar (her husband), was sitting at the table holding a chair out for me.  I haltingly walked in and sat down.  Was I dreaming?  The entire scenario was like a beautiful assault on the senses.
The only problem I could find was the missing coffee cup from my place at the table.  When I asked for one they were shocked.  
“Oh honey, you’re much too young for coffee!” Minnie said.
I informed her that I’d been drinking coffee since I was 2 years old and would truly love a cup right now.  She wasn’t going to relent, but Delmar gave her a little nod and she asked me what I’d like in it.  I showed her how my grandmother fixed it for me.  She relaxed a bit when she realized my idea of coffee was primarily coffee flavored sugary milk.
As I stuffed my face with pancakes Minnie told me they were going to get me registered for kindergarten that day.  Now I knew I must be dreaming!  
“REALLY?” I screamed.
This was amazing to me.  You can’t imagine the true sense of culture shock I experienced in less than 48hrs.  I was on cloud nine!

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  1. Ella

    What a wonderful memory and I can really imagine that you thought you were in heaven. For how long did you stay with them?

  2. Barbara

    I was there for 6 glorious months. I used to go back and visit in the summer occasionally. They were wonderful people and showed me a much more civilized world than I'd known previously.
    Thanks Ella!
    How are you doing? Is spring coming where you are?

  3. Ella

    Well, it was snowing today… but I'm so crazy that I would like the snow to stay until Easter has passed so we can use both skis and snowmobile on the Easter holiday.

  4. Barbara

    Well Ella it's a good thing you live in Sweden! Enjoy!

  5. Denise

    What a wonderful experience. They sound like such good people and I too remember having a "cup of coffee" with my dad each morning while we had breakfast. It was mostly milk with just a bit of coffee in it but I felt so grown up. It was also our special time of day before I went off to school and he went to work. Thank you for sharing Barbara.

  6. Barbara

    @Denise, isn't that a special memory! My grandmother always found a way to get me to eat or drink whatever I was refusing. Pretty creative I think. Of course we were both addicted to caffeine at a very early age, but what the hell.
    Thanks for sharing a memory.

  7. passionateaboutpets

    You must have thought you'd gone to heaven Barbara! A precious memory that is still with you to this day. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  8. alexa

    I'm really touched reading this. It reminds me how even small things about how we live our lives can impact so hugely on a Little Person. Wonderful memory and journalling.

  9. Barbara

    Thanks Alexa! It is true about small things impacting our lives. The civility I felt in their home was part of what I kept striving for because I knew there was a better life out there. I was right!
    Glad you contributed to the convo.

  10. alexa

    Thank-you for visiting me, Barbara, and looking forward to popping in to see you more!

  11. ElizOF

    What a wonderful childhood memory to cherish… I can imagine their faces when you asked for coffee! Aunt Minnie's home sounds like something we'd all love to have even if it's just as a getaway now… 🙂
    Eliz

  12. Barbara

    Funny Elizabeth, but I didn't realize until this all started flooding back to me that I'm sure I used her home as the 'standard' that I wanted. I think that's why I'm so picky about the little details. You know what they say… the love is in the details! so true.

  13. GutsyWriter

    What a beautifully told heart-warming story. How long did you live with them? I also noticed how you mentioned flowers about 3 times. Was this the start of your passion for decorating and flower arrangements?

  14. Barbara

    Sonia, I lived there about 6 months and occasionally went back for weekend visits.

    It was my first exposure to fresh cut flowers on a regular basis. It could very well be what led to my love of flowers. I have to have fresh flowers in my house all the time.
    Glad you liked the story.

  15. GutsyWriter

    What a beautifully told heart-warming story. How long did you live with them? I also noticed how you mentioned flowers about 3 times. Was this the start of your passion for decorating and flower arrangements?

  16. Barbara

    Funny Elizabeth, but I didn't realize until this all started flooding back to me that I'm sure I used her home as the 'standard' that I wanted. I think that's why I'm so picky about the little details. You know what they say… the love is in the details! so true.

  17. Denise

    What a wonderful experience. They sound like such good people and I too remember having a "cup of coffee" with my dad each morning while we had breakfast. It was mostly milk with just a bit of coffee in it but I felt so grown up. It was also our special time of day before I went off to school and he went to work. Thank you for sharing Barbara.