By Linda Lenzke
In September of 1955 my education began.
On the first day of Kindergarten my mother curled my long hair, clipped a red and a blue ribbon above each of my ears to match my first day of school dress. I wore lacy white anklet socks and brand new leather black and white saddle shoes with hounds tooth laces. She grabbed the Kodak Brownie Camera and took pictures of me, waving good-bye.
Both my mother and younger sister Roz walked me to school that first day, reinforcing the route I would take, which corner to turn left, and to always look both ways before crossing the street. I had my rag rug rolled up under my arm for nap time and carried an apple for my teacher. My mother thought I should make a strong first impression. My sister Roz, who was three years old and my first best friend, cried uncontrollably when my mother said goodbye as she pulled Roz in tow behind her. We did everything together, but now, I was a big girl in school and would make new friends and have fun, just like on television.
A funny thing happened on my way to school during that first week. One morning, I met a young girl walking away from school as I was on my way to Kindergarten. She had beautiful corn rows with red gingham bows braided into her hair to match her dress with a white starched pinafore. She wore lace socks and patent leather Mary Jane shoes with cleats that tapped notes as she skipped. She smiled broadly when she approached me, as if we were already friends. She planted herself in front of me so I couldn’t walk ahead without bumping into her. With a gleam in her eye and an aura of mischief (like a “Don’t Bee from Miss Frances’s Ding Dong School) she asked, “Do you want to learn a song? Without hesitation and because my parents taught me to be polite, I said, “Yes, please.”
My new friend giggled and twirled, her dress catching the wind beneath it, causing it to billow and reveal a crinoline slip. She planted her feet far apart and then began singing, accompanied by hand motions, first touching her right hand to her left breast, followed by her left hand to right breast. Then switching back to her right hand, touching that place between her legs I was told never to touch in public, as her right hand swung back behind her, cupping the middle of skirt and reaching between her buttocks as she crooned proudly while swinging her hips, “Milk, milk, lemonade, ‘round the corner fudge is made.” She repeated the refrain two or three times.
I stood speechless and wide-eyed, not sure how I should receive this gift of song. I was mute when she asked me to sing along and join her in the motions. I shook my head no and she crossed her arms in front of herself high on her chest with her head tilted up and back; her expression changed from delight to anger and frustration. She yelled dismissively waving one hand, “You’re a big baby, now go to school.” She skipped away, lifted her head again as if she was speaking to the sky and said, “I’m not going to school, I’m playing h-o-o-k-e-y.” When I got home that evening, I didn’t tell my parents about the little girl I met on the way to school, but I asked, “What’s hookey?”
I learned three things that day: never to play hookey, that the journey to and from school was full of surprises, and I learned my first naughty song.