The scissors weren’t sharp enough. The only way to stay on the line and cut perfect circles was to go slow. I bent over the red circle. Red had to be first. Halfway around the circle, my concentration was broken by a boy spilling glue on his pants and the teacher running around to wipe it up. He cried a little. That was the third crier so far. I kept my head down and eyes focused on the blue line around my red crayoned circle. The yellow and green circles waited impatiently. Too bad for them.
I finished the perfect red circle feeling a little winded and realized I’d been holding my breath. I looked up from my work to see the girl beside me with all her circles already cut. What a quick cutter! They weren’t quite circles, though. I started on my yellow circle. Had to do them in order. The yellow goes in the middle. Halfway around the circle, concentration broken by same boy asking for a new yellow crayon. His didn’t have a point. I wondered why his mother didn’t teach him how to peel the paper, but did not look up. Maybe he didn’t have crayons at home. Maybe he spilled everything all the time. I kept on cutting. Slowly. Almost there.
I finished the perfect yellow circle and before I started in on the green one I saw the girl on the other side of me gluing her yellow circle on the top. Wrong. Maybe she couldn’t see out the window in her dad’s car. I resumed my cutting, holding the scissors very tight and turning the paper with my left hand, thumb in the center so the circle turned perfectly to the cutting. Halfway around the circle, concentration broke by a thought. This isn’t even how it’s supposed to look. I kept cutting anyway. I wasn’t the designer. But I sure could follow directions.
When I came up for air triumphant after my third perfect circle, I realized I could have stacked the papers and cut them all at once. Maybe that’s what everyone else did because nobody else was still cutting. Their circles were awful. Most were finished gluing already, too. Three kids were helping pick up cuttings from the floor. The confetti everywhere made me wonder why they cut like that. I picked up the three empty circles of paper on my table and handed them to the already-done-helper-girl who came by with the trash can. I watched the teacher tape up finished creations along the wall and knew that tape wouldn’t last long. But we were supposed to stay quiet and only talk when we raised our hand.
The black rectangle lay ready on my table and I laid out the three circles perfectly centered and evenly spaced in a straight line ready to be glued down. I got up from my chair and went to get a glue from the basket and put back my scissors, carefully holding my scissors by the closed blades the way you’re supposed to. That’s when I saw that nobody had a project on their desk. They were almost all hung up. The kids all sat the way the teacher told us to–feet on the floor, hands folded together on the desk. They all watched me walk across the room and back to my seat. I’d heard about school for my entire fourth year of life from my very slightly older sister. She never told me that school was weird.
The teacher saw me out of my seat and my papers on my desk. She smiled and picked it up and the circles went flying everywhere. She stopped smiling. When I got back with my glue she took it from me. She muttered something about helping me. I tried to take back the glue but she put three dots on the black paper, stuck the circles on and turned to hang it at the end of the long line of stoplights on the wall under the blackboard. My circles were not in a straight line. The glue was soft and my circles slid. She bent the corner of the black rectangle. I decided the line of stoplights looked ridiculous. Real ones never have all three colored lights on at the same time. Having all three colors was wrong. We should have each only put on one circle in the correct position. We could have lined them up: Go! Slow down! Stop! I wondered how color blind people know when to go and when to stop. That’s probably what caused accidents.
The teacher stepped back to appreciate our first project in school. I hoped when Mom came for conferences she didn’t have to see this mess.
Apparently (that’s a word I heard at home and could spell) school projects must be completed rapidly. Jagged cuts and crooked gluing were sufficient. Poor design was excused. The key was to get done fast, help clean up the confetti, and sit with hands folded as quickly and often as possible. I learned so much on the first day of kindergarten, but left disappointed. I’d waited a year for this. I felt a little bad when I stepped on someone’s stoplight as I marched quiet as a mouse in line to recess. It had fallen to the floor with three others when their tape lost its fight with gravity.
When I got home, Mommy asked what I learned at school that day. I didn’t think my real answer would work, since my older sister reported about math and science. Maybe first grade would be better than kindergarten. I would spend the fifth year of my life anticipating the next, surely better one to come. I don’t remember what I told Mom, but I still remember what I learned. And when I got to first grade they tried to unteach me how to add and subtract. But that’s another story for another post in the middle of another sleepless night.