Right now, and for the next two years, Archie and Else are in two different places, with two different start times and school calendars. I’m helping out by taking Archie in the morning, and picking him up in the afternoon.
That gives me a unique window on what it’s like for a little boy to start school. He and I have been talking about what I remember of kindergarten: Garfield School in Kearny, my teacher Mrs. Wells, my best friend Freddie Lew. Freddie was an orphan, living in Kearny with foster parents. I probably didn’t know fully what an orphan was then, but I understood on some level that Freddie needed a permanent family. My infant sister Barbara had died in March of that year, and I supposed we had room. I asked my mother if we could bring Freddie to live with us, and she said no. One day, Freddie was simply gone — returned to the orphanage in Newark. I think we went to see him once, and then never again. I told Archie the first part about Freddie, that we were best friends and always chose blocks when it was our free time, but not the rest.
Archie’s best friends right now are Leo and Nisso. Arch says there are more boys in his class than girls. He and Leo and Nisso sit at one of the small tables together — there are several tables, each with three or four kids. I imagine their teacher, Sean, mixes and matches as relationships evolve. I love Sean — he’s warm but firm, just the right combination for wiggly little boys.
Archie has been in kindergarten for about three weeks. He’s gone from being in the oldest class at day care/preschool to the youngest. His school is K-5, so the fifth graders are the Really Big Kids. He changes rooms for things like music and P.E. and science lab. He has two new teachers, and all but one of his classmates are new. He brings his lunch, instead of having it provided. He is adapting to a more academic structure — quite well, I think. Earlier this week, when we came home, he got a marker and a big sheet of white paper and began writing letters, asking me if they spelled anything. Actually, they did. He knows how to write several three letter words. They visit the school library — he got to bring home a book, and he knows he can keep it for one week.
I’m loving this. All of the newness that we all face every time there is a life transition — often, for most of us — is there in a little boy starting school, albeit in the six year old version. Life constantly calls us to grow and adapt and change — that’s what Minga is doing, as she faces an entirely new way of life with dialysis and life-threatening kidney failure. Observing that process, in myself and in those I love, never ceases to amaze.