The first day of school in Kindergarten, I was amazed that there were that many kids in the world that were my age! Yes, I saw a few in the playground, but the sea of little heads bobbing around the classroom was news to me.
There was a boy in overalls to my left who kept darting for the exit. He was patiently guided back to his seat several times. I think he knew that his soul was about to be indentured for the next umpteen years. I mused and didn’t quite get it.
Soon I would get it. In retrospect, I wasn’t obedient. I didn’t understand the criteria for acceptable behavior, so my spontaneity wasn’t appreciated by Miss Getcher. I confess that I was looking around, talking, and fascinated with the colors and characters.
As retribution, I was escorted to the coat room. I didn’t know why, but there I was. It was far less interesting to be in that space than in the classroom. The nursery rhyme figures on the tiles above the ceramic hooks were little solace. The coats and I were waiting for something to happen.
Over the next weeks I was relegated to the coat room repeatedly. Emerging from the darkness for “nap time” I wasn’t in a napping mood, so was punished again. Not surprisingly, I wasn’t happy with school. My mother asked why, and I answered, “It’s dark and boring.” My next stop was to the eye doctor!
Finally, my brother came looking for me one day, and the class pointed to the coat room. He stuck his head in and asked, “What are you doing in here?” I said, “This is where I go to school.”
The next day, my father escorted me to the principal’s office and the teacher got read the riot act, but the dye was cast. I was “the girl in the coat room.” It took several years to destigmatize me, but I finally made it to “Safety Patrol,” my white belt proclaiming my resurrection!
And so it goes… The coat rooms in our lives, the moments of feeling different and not belonging etch trauma on our hearts. I could have used a compassionate Kindergarten teacher, that’s for sure. Like all experiences, the injury can give rise to consciousness. I hope that the saga of the coat room opened my heart a little wider.