Plastic blue mats and Mrs. Lee

Published 6:57 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It’s hard to believe, but school time is here. Come Monday, the school bells will be ringing, and kids with their three-ton backpacks will be seen everywhere. Bless their hearts—those things look so heavy.

When I was little, we didn’t have kindergarten, and since my three older brothers didn’t want baby sister tagging along and I was the only little girl in our neighborhood, my parents sent me to Mrs. Melvin Gillem’s “Kiddie College” on Hillcrest Drive in Greenville.

It turned out to be great because I met many of the people I would soon go to school with, later work with and become best friends with.

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Mrs. Gillem had these tire swings in her back yard that were great, and at that time, my vertigo had not made itself known to me, so I could enjoy twisting around and around and around. We learned how to tie our shoes and color within the lines—well, I had to work on that one– but I do know we had fun. Plus, we got out at noon, just in time for me to watch “Days of Our Lives” at 12:30. My grandmother got me hooked at an early age, you see.

Of course, nothing beats naptime in kindergarten. We had those plastic blue mats that we had to lie on and at least try to take a nap on whether we wanted to or not.

What I wouldn’t give for a plastic blue mat and a naptime every afternoon these days.

By the time first and second grades rolled around, I was really proud of my organizational skills because of those little plastic pouches that zipped up and kept all of your pencils and pens neatly together.

Wait a minute. Did they have those little zippered plastic pouches in 1972? I might be confusing them with the cigar boxes that held all of my crayons…

Mrs. Dickie Sue Lee was one of the best teachers I ever had. She taught us in the second grade, and I learned my alphabet and phonics so well because of her. Every week, she would uncover a new letter on the wall, and each letter had a big picture to go with it to remind you of the sound that letter made. My favorite picture was of the little girl eating ice cream and saying, “Mmmm,” because the ice cream looked so good. Of course, that was the letter “M.” It’s funny how one remembers little things like that.

Of course, by the time I hit the sixth grade, things were completely different. I was listening to KISS and the Beatles (what a combination), and I was in love with Leif Garrett, Scott Baio and Erik Estrada, or “Ponch” from the TV show “Chips.”

“All in The Family” was breaking every societal and racial faux pas on TV, and watching “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” after school every day was a must.

By the time I hit high school, I had discovered makeup, a curling iron and lots of Aussie Sprunch Spray. After all, BIG hair in the 80s was a must. And don’t deny it—you did it, too.

Let’s face it—going to school, meeting new people, trying to fit in, wanting to be accepted, liked and included in the “in” crowd—all of those things still exist for today’s young people. And we should remember—it’s not easy. Plus, today’s kids have so many more obstacles and temptations thrown at them than we did, so much so that it’s absolutely frightening.

After reminiscing about our early school days, Samson, my 21-pound tomcat, recalled how he used to get beat up for his milk money.

We don’t think that would happen if they could see him today, however.