One of my facebook friends asked me about my childhood this week. He was looking for some kind of affirmation about what a miserable time gifted children have in school.
I disappointed him.
I loved school. I loved almost everything about it. I loved the smell of chalk in the classrooms and having my very own desk and cubby and getting a new lunchbox every year and the smell of paste and...oh!...library time. Library time was the best! Visiting where the books lived!
It's possible that I was not a very gifted child, now that I think about it. Who gets excited by the smell of chalk?
Now I wouldn't want you to think, gentle readers, that I was popular in school. Alas, no. I did not have cool clothes or the right haircut or the big, 64-count box of crayons. You know, the one with the sharpener? Oh, how I wanted the Big Box of crayons! But we couldn't afford it, so I was stuck with sixteen lousy colors. That sucked.*
No, I was a big nerd in school; I just didn't much care. As long as there was a book near by, any book, it was all good.
I even liked gym. No one ever picked me for a team, and I was lousy at every sport (except dodge ball), but I was lousy with enthusiasm. I learned to play with enthusiasm and not care what I looked like doing so, and I learned this blithe unconcern in the second grade in Special Gym class.
What is Special Gym? Well, Special Gym was a class for the deeply uncoordinated, although that's not what my parents told me when they explained that I was going to be taken out of math for a while. What they actually said was, "You can't jump rope, apparently, and there's something about walking backwards that confuses you, so they're putting you in Special Gym. Math can come later, once we're sure you're not going to accidentally knock a toe off trying to skip."
I might be remembering that last part wrong. I was only seven.
Each day, when the other students started math, I would walk to the classroom door and wait for the Special Gym teacher to pass in the hallway. Then I would join the short line of children and walk outside, around a corner, and into a whole other building with a tiny little gym room with padding all along the walls. Then I would practice walking backwards, and jumping rope without falling, and, on special days, I would get to sit on this square wooden thing with four rollar skate wheels on the bottom and try to zoom the length of the room without falling off. And if I went too fast or tripped or something, I would just bounce off of the walls or the big rolled up mats or one of the teachers. Sometimes, I let myself lose control on purpose, just for the bounce.
It was fun.
And there were lots of teachers, now that I think about it. Four or five, at least, and only eight or ten of us in the class. And they always talked warmly and praised me even when I did something stupid like walk out of my shoes or accidentally smack someone while trying not to fall over. And we were absolutely not allowed to make fun of each other. Ever.
You know, now that I think about it...hmmm...that was a pretty unusual class. I never saw any of those other students outside of that class.
Some of them didn't follow directions very well. Or talk, really.
Well, the hell with it! I loved Special Gym, and I can almost always walk backwards, and I will dance in circles if I want to or skip badly or take seven hits at a tee-ball before I connect and I don't care. Point and laugh, precious readers. Go ahead! We veterans of Special Gym do not give a frak.
And I still love school.
*I have the Big Box of crayons, now, of course. It was one of the first things I bought when I got a real, tenure-track job.