Kindergarten. The teacher in the front of the room squawks like a magpie—like a magpie getting excited and angry about things no one else cares about. I sit in the middle of class, my hands folded in my lap. The other children rustle around me, so many Chickadees fluffing feathers. The teacher holds up a white card with bent and broken fence posts on it. “This is an ‘A’,” she says. But I am already riding Chester across the deep creek. His hooves splash my bare feet with cold water that makes them tingle. Then the tingling is a bell in my ears, and it’s time to go home.
When the other students have all learned to read, I am sent to the library to trace letters with colored pencils on butcher-block paper. In blue, I draw big looping-lariat O’s, over and over. In green and red, X a jackleg fence, T a telephone pole. My favorite, though, is K. I save purple for its straight back and elegant wings that could fly away on the wind.
In first grade, Mrs. Hansen calls home because I am too shy to talk the other kids. I won’t talk to her either. I’m in the Canary reading group. Robins have big books and Bluebirds have thick books, but Canaries have coloring books. Mrs. Hanson flits among the students, while I wear my crayons down to nubs.
Second grade. The principal calls home. Somehow Grandma Peters is involved. The details are sketchy. But for the first time Mom, Karen and I sit on the stiff couch with books from the library. A reading contest is mentioned. In fact, most of the students have already marched their turtles far down the construction-paper road of books they have read.
Mom, Karen and I work our way from Spot the Dog to The Adventures of Narnia. I win the book contest. After that, Mom and the teachers leave me alone. I sit by myself at my desk, book in hand, and listen as the world around me flutters once, then disappears.
Dr. Danielle Jones teaches writing and literature at the University of Montana Western. She has a Ph.D in Poetry from SUNY-Albany and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University. For the 2012-2013 academic year, she has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar Grant to Russia, where she will teach literature and work on her memoir, Mother Russia, Father Time.