It was old, we were new. It was older than old, we were newer than new and some of us, very old indeed. It was a time for new beginnings and finding our way back. We all came from families of diverse backgrounds, yet it was the classrooms and teachers that threw the spotlight on or truest selves. Fall, ushered in by the hot breaths of Madame Santa Ana kept us in a whirlwind of bougainvillea whirlpools from Mission San Gabriel and in a maelstrom of Halloween burnt offerings, Thanksgiving hand-turkey cutouts, lanyards put away from last summer’s campgrounds and the profound sense that all these grownups cared about the seasonal times and tides and that they truly wanted to bequeath all this abundance to us.
I cried every time the ending bell rang and kept living for the next time we’d assemble for The Christmas Program and its calendar counterpart, The May Festival. We had a cornucopia of teachers at our fingertips and they in turn, taught our fingertips what came next. In first grade, it was gray mats and nap times and just noticing who did not flush the toilet that occupied one’s sense of order, cleanliness and consistency. In second grade, the soft, felt cutouts on Mrs. Hewlett’s scrap board gave us the first opportunity to touch a wondrous, nouvelle pointer-finger onto the two apples that made three, when you were called up to press one next to hers. In Fall, pumpkins and maple leafs joined the apple family and before we were released for Christmas Break, green wreathes and silvery garlands of Walt Disney styled cartoon scarlet bows graced the black background. It was a time for me when math was not capitalized yet, meant only addition and did not tax my troubled head. I had only to learn to count to ten and that was enough.