A Short Story by Troy Kidder
As school reopens each year, I think of the excitement of students entering a new grade and the anticipation of those starting school for the first time.
I remember my first day of school in ’69. Because my mother was a teacher and was busy preparing for school herself, we didn’t get all my supplies together until that very morning. While we were racing around the house, we found the paste, scissors and some broken crayons. The crayons had rubbed together so often it was hard to tell the original colors.
Finally, we came to the last item on the list—the nap mat.
This seemed to puzzle my mother. For a moment she pondered, then dashed into the bathroom and picked up the lime-colored, furry rug that almost every American has lying on the floor next to the bathtub. With the sack of supplies in my hand, she draped the furry rug over my shoulder and hustled me out the door, where I took that fateful leap onto the big Blue Bird bus.
When I arrived safely at school, I expected to see my fellow classmates with big furry rugs hoisted over their shoulders. . . . maybe one would have white, another blue or maybe red. Shoot! Not a furry rug in sight.
While kids stared at me, I realized what was “kindergarten hip” and what wasn’t. A little boy named Artie was strutting around with what appeared to be a briefcase, but with a flip of the wrist, it sprung into a beautiful multi-colored nap mat. Boy, was I jealous! Another child had a pack of crayons with 487 colors and an electric sharpener that was so large she had to pull it on wheels and carry an extension cord around to use it.
The day, however, improved. The teacher was nice, and we colored. But during the introduction to show-and- tell, we were on our nap mats (my furry rug) when little Jimmy chirped, “Maybe next show-and-tell Troy could bring his matching toilet seat cover.”
Hey, that’s okay! A few weeks later, when milk and cookies didn’t agree with me, I threw up all over little Jimmy’s lap. Oh, and that furry rug . . . well, as our nap pattern developed, it was “lights out” right after recess. Funny thing about those multi-colored nap mats that come in a briefcase—they’re made of hard plastic. Combine that surface with sweaty skin—it’s not a pleasant sensation. Soon they were calling out to me, “Hey, you wanna swap?”
Like an actor in a commercial, I propped my hands behind my head and said, “No thanks, guys. I feel good!”
I knew it was gonna be a great year.