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Home » Kid stories » SHEP’S KID STORY BOOK–First Day of Kindergarten 5

SHEP’S KID STORY BOOK–First Day of Kindergarten 5

Miss Bundy walks over to the windows and opens one.  I remember this moment.  It’s a kind of blur.  She says, “Now, boys and girls, the first thing we’re going to do, we’re going to sing a song.  How many of you like to sing?”  I just look up.  Sing a song?  I didn’t sing, I don’t sing.

“How many of you like to sing?  Ah, I see, well that’s very good.”  Some of the kids have their hand up.  There are always kids who have their hand up instantly.  Little did I realize that that was the thing that was going to plague me all of my life.  In every crowd there’s five people who have perpetually got their hand up.

“Now, when I play with you on the piano, I want all of you to sing the words that I will sing.  Listen to me as I sing, and you repeat after me what I am singing.  Won’t that be fun?”

Miss Bundy was a big, fat, round, jovial lady.  Later on (I didn’t realize at the time, of course.  She was just a big round fat lady to me.), but later on, I learned she was a beloved kindergarten teacher and one of the most respected in the whole area.  And she loved kids.  So she sits down at this piano and she starts to play.  She goes bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp.  Bomp.  “Oh-I-am-here-in-school.” Bomp-bomp-bomp.  “Now let’s sing it, boys and girls.  Oh-I-am-here-in-school.” Bomp-bomp.

I notice instantly that all the girls are singing.  The boys are sitting.

She says, “Now, come on, all of you.  Come on, all the boys, too.  All you boys too, let’s go.  Nice.  Here we go now.”  Bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp.  and she’s banging away at the piano.  Well, she plays this song and I am in total misery.

First of all I am embarrassed.  I don’t know why I am embarrassed. I didn’t like to sing in front of all the other kids, ‘cause I couldn’t sing good.  I sit there and I see this kid, Schwartz.  He’s sitting there, too.  He’s looking mad.  There’s another guy named Flick.  She’s playing the piano.

A BOY NAMED ?

Then, after the piano playing is over, Miss Bundy says, “Now, boys and girls the next thing we’re going to do.  I would like to ask all of you.  Each one of you in turn.  I want all of you to say your name.  Say your name so all the other children will know your name.  Won’t that be fun?”

Won’t that be fun?  That was always bad news.  So she points to this little girl.  “Ester Jane.”

“Oh, boys and girls, did you hear what she said?  She said that her name is Ester Jane.  Isn’t that a nice name?  Ester Jane.  That’s a very pretty name.  Are you named after your mother or your father?”

“Eh.”

“Very nice name.”  She works her way down the line and finally she comes to me.  And this is the first of a long series of traumas that begin.  She says, “What is your name?”

“Jean.”

“Ah, isn’t that nice.  Now you see, his name is Eugene.  Isn’t that a nice name.”

“Eh.  Jean!”

“Yes, but you see, Gene is short for Eugene.  And you can all call him Gene if he wants to be called Gene.  But that’s a very pretty name.  I once knew a man named Eugene.  In fact, I would like to read to you a poem someday, by a man named Eugene Field who wrote a very pretty poem about a little toy soldier.  Are you named after him?  Is your father’s name Eugene?”

Eugene O'Neil photo

JeanShepard (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 A FAMOUS GENE                              A FAMOUS JEAN

I never heard the name Eugene in my life!  My name is not Eugene. Jean. J E A N, Jean.  What was going on already, I thought.  I’m falling behind in school—over my own name!  I’m lousing up over my own name!

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2 Comments

  1. Gene says:

    A plague on my life in all official circumstances…and I could rattle them off without a pause…”Gene Autry, Gene Tunny, Gene Krupa, Gene Kelly…and NO it is NOT Eugene!” And NO it is Not a girl’s name. I knew Shep understood.

  2. Fatheads,
    Wanting to be one of, and not be the brunt of torment guided my mission in my early years at Rand School i Montclair. NJ Not negotiating kindrgarden very well…we had a substitute teacher oe day ad I just couldn’t raise the courage to ask her for permission to use the “basement” and at nap time the absolutely worst happened…lying on my little bathmat carpet reminent , staining and struggling my grip failed….

    Tearfully I raised my hand..and was escorted out quietly edging backwards out the door into the hallway.
    My mom worked in the Sears store on Bloomfield Ave downtown so I had to walk home by myself before lunch with a poop in my shorts.

    Having lived through that- fortunately no one knew and the teacher was gone the next day, the most significant character shaping event occurred in the first grade with Mrs Goldie.
    Our little desks were arranged in clusters of 4, and each cluster competed with blackboard problem solving, and word printing. And most important of all……Sitting up straight with our hands clasped in front of us on our desks.
    There was a chart on the board with boxes for each cluster for stars to be drawn in. I was sitting next to Ann “Chimbilly” Peters (that’s what she called the thing on the roof of the houses we drew with smoke curlicuing out the top) . Ann and I had a secret private competition for sitting up straight, so our cluster excelled.
    I was sitting up straighter and more earnestly (West Point cadets would have had nothing on me) my hands were clasped in a white knuckled death grip,my arms perfectly perpendicular to my torso…body quivering, bow string taught and the judging by Mrs Goldie began. i could hear her heels clumping on the hardwood floor, not daring to break my composure to look and see where she was, a trickle of kid sweat beginning to work it’s way down my neck…and the announcement ! Our cluster was selected to be the best most sitting up straightest hands clasped the best of all the class…”and Gene, since you were the straightest most still boy , you get to go up to the blackboard and draw a star”.

    I froze.
    I couldn’t move- I didn’t know how to draw a star. You know, keeping your pen on the paper you go up the left side at an angle stop,come down the right side forming 2 legs of a triangle up diagonally from lower right to upper left space mid way on the left leg extending out stopping, across to the right to the mid point of the right leg extending out, then diagonally down to the base of the left leg of the baseless triangle-all in one motion zipzip,zipzip,zip-a 5 pointed star ✯
    I could draw a Jewish star, 2 inverted triangles I learned that in Hebrew School…but I wasn’t going to reveal my Jewish status-it was bad enough I was a Gene (never to find my name on a give away bike license plate).

    Every one looked at me….my cluster mates nudged me…go on- go up and draw a star…GO!
    I didn’t move. paralysis set in. I could not admit I didn’t know how to draw a star.
    Listen each time I had to tell my left from my right I had to think where my heart was and begin to say under my breath “I pleggeallegiance…”
    Mrs Goldie thought I was somehow being defiant and gasp..anothe r cluster got to go up and draw a star-our star in their cluster column.
    After the storm of resentment passed, my cluster mates taught me how to draw a 5 pointed star-over and over and over. To this day, I draw a really good 5 pointed star. ✯ ✯ ✯.

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