Friday, June 6, 2008

Nursery School

As a child I lived in the shadow of fear and anxiety. I'm not sure where they came from...the easy answer is that my family moved from England to America when I was three and a half, but the way my mother tells it, I was an anxious, clingy child even before that.

I've heard the story of my first--and only--visit to the local nursery school some months before we left England, but I've only ever heard it from my mother's point of view--the exasperated, exhausted woman with the child she couldn't leave anywhere. Not even for a minute.

But what's my story in all of this?

...I run my hand along the black iron railing that separates the school yard from the pavement. Mummy walks beside me pushing the pram where my baby brother rides. I want to ride in the pram, too, but Mummy says I'm too big and must walk beside her like a big girl.

The big girls and boys in the school yard are very noisy and I press my hands to my ears to shut them out. I'm glad there's a fence to keep the big boys away. I don't like big boys. They are noisy and they frighten me almost as much as dogs. Big, loud, nasty things. I walk a bit closer to Mummy. I wish I could ride in the pram.

We get where we are going and I find myself in a room full of children. There are some ladies there, too. One of the ladies says I must go and play with the other children while she talks to Mummy. I think the big wooden climbing frame looks fun. It has a big slide, and I would like to go down the slide. I don't think I want to climb the frame to get to the top, though. It looks too high and I'm afraid of falling and hurting myself.

I go to the bottom of the slide and start to climb up. It's slippery polished wood. I grip the sides tight with my fingers. A boy shouts at me from the top. He wants to slide down but I am in the way. I want to slide too, but this is the only way I can get up to the top.

I finally get to the top and slide down. Then I look around for Mummy. She's not there, so I start to cry. Mummy should be here. Where has she gone? One of the ladies sees me crying and comes over to me. She wants to know what's wrong. I tell her I want my Mummy. She picks me up and asks me if I want to go and find a toy to play with. She carries me to a room full of toys. There's a hobby horse and a toy train, a red ball and some blocks. But I don't want to play with those toys. I just want my Mummy, and I don't know why she doesn't come. She always comes when I cry...

I'm told that my mother was actually there the whole time, watching through a window. She hated leaving me there, and felt awful when I cried, but she'd been told that she had to get me used to being without her for short periods...


Shiv said...

Beautifully written, you took me right into your mind. Thank you for sharing this :)


Clueless said...

I want to comfort that little girl and explain where Mummy went and will be back and Mummy should have been able to say goodbye and tell you the same things and give you something as a reminder that she will be back. I sure hope things are different now.

Your writing is beautiful.

Jazz said...

In Mummy's defense, I imagine she did explain it all...but I'm also pretty sure her anxious little daughter didn't take it in...

Thank-you, Shiv and Clueless, for the compliment!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I agree with shiv and clueless. This is beautifully written. Like clueless, it makes me want to comfort that little girl. What's so interesting to me is that you remember this so vividly.

When I left my son at preschool for the first time, I stayed for a week until he was comfortable. But then, when we had to make the break, it was still very difficult for him--even though I explained it over and over at home, and read a book to him about a little boy--like him--starting preschool.

Still, he sobbed, as I said goodbye, hugged him, and left the school. I smiled to show him it was a safe place. I explained when I would be returning, and left without displaying emotion (as I read I was supposed to do).

And as soon as I reached my car, I burst into tears as I drove away.


Jazz said...

Thank-you, Susan.
I guess I was lucky...both of my children turned out to me a lot less anxious and more secure than I was! My son marched into the preschool classroom without looking back, and my daughter, although she was shy in class, didn't have any separation anxiety issues. I, on the other hand, burst into tears when I left them! And to tell you the truth, I still get a teary when they get on the bus on the first day of school, even though they are now nearly 11 and nearly 13!

Jazz said...

Oh, and it's funny, my memory...I've got extremely vivid memories of things that go back to me being about 18 months old. I'm always amazed when people tell me they can't remember anything before they were six or eight...I can remember the layout of our house in England, the color of the carpet, the tiles in the kitchen...all sorts of little things...I often amaze my mother with how much I do remember.

Clueless said...

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Coco said...

You've left me all teary. Beautiful post. One that really touches my heart, as I was like this sweet little girl too. Major seperation issues. And funny enough we had to leave my youngest last night (crying) with her grandma, and it just about tore my heart out.

Thanks for taking me with you into that memory... you're a fabulous writer.

Jazz said...

*blushing and shuffling feet*
Thank you, Coco!