First grade was quite a shock. I remember my sister and me and Cindy Phelps walking together to Seneca Ave Elementary school. Cindy’s mom gave us each a pencil box with a big rubber eraser. On the outside kids were smiling and learning something. I don’t remember smiling or learning anything until 2nd grade when Kathy Laugherty made me laugh so hard my sides ached and my desk that was connected to my chair shook cause I had to hold it in. When Mrs. Mann told me I had to lay my head on my desk, I was even happier. Teachers back then would make us lay our heads on our desks, which was the 60’s version of group time out. I liked it. Laying my head on my desk meant that I could shut my eyes and my mind was free to travel, free to leave school. In 2nd grade it didn’t get to far; to the park to play baseball, to the old mill to catch minnies, to home where I could watch black and white cartoons in my pj’s with feet and eat cereal and sit behind a folding TV tray.
One time Mrs. Mann came by and touched me on the head and I swatted her and said, “go away Grandma,” thinking I was home. That really made Kathy Laugherty laugh. Going up front was my real punishment. I’d stare at Mrs. Mann’s hair and wonder how someone so old could have hair so yellow. I’d look at the little tiny black bow stuck in the middle of that mound and wonder if she pulls it out at night and does her hair collapse on top of her head like a deflated beach ball? How she would blow it up in the morning is still a mystery. Sometimes when Mrs. Mann was really mad at me she’d talk in French and say something like,”Fair Le La Buush” or something like that which meant shut your mouth or close your mouth when you are chewing or something.
In second grade I was so afraid I’d have to write my name in curvy letters and sing out of a book with no words, only weird symbols and lines. On the first day I found out my name wasn’t “Andy” it was “Andrew.” Andrew? Andrew didn’t have any meaning, it was stupid to write two more letters. But when I folded my paper long ways and had to trace the curvy letters, it fell out of my hands. The long line of metal windows, desk high, were open and caught a September breeze blowing my name card over to Kathy who stepped on it with her brown and white saddle shoes, the real kind, with a dog named Ty on the inside. Least that’s what she said.
“Come on” I said, way too loud. That’s when I heard it for the first time…”ANDREW, come up here.” In that moment I realized “Andrew” does have a meaning after all.