Daydreaming of kindergarten

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

By mid-morning in Mrs. Louise Benton’s third grade class, daydreaming time set in. That is when the kids going to the kindergarten across the street from Opp Elementary School went out for play time.

I watched them run out of the building and into the fenced backyard. They seemed so happy, so free. Me, I was stuck in school dreaming of the sweet freedom of my kindergarten days.

When I was growing up, kindergarten wasn’t part of school so there were private ones that kids attended. I went to Mrs. Hazel Jackson’s located down the street from my house on East Park Avenue. And later, Mrs. Jane Martin had a kindergarten around the corner; my brothers and sisters went to that one. Then there was the one Mrs. McGill had across from the elementary school located in a little building behind the McGill’s house.

So many days, I saw the children playing while Mrs. McGill watched from her chair under the shade trees. I imagined the snacks they had for recess and how much fun they probably had coloring and painting and doing all kinds of things.

For me, a third grader, those carefree days were over. Now, it was reading, writing and arithmetic with only occasional coloring or painting.

So I looked with a bit of envy as the kindergarten kids lined up to go back inside after their play time. Then a little later, mothers arrived to take those kids home; their school day ended before mine reached lunchtime. How I wished I were one of them.

All through my elementary school years, when my classroom was on the side of the building with a view of the kindergarten, I watched the goings and comings over there. It was a sweet break from the learning I was supposed to be doing.

When I was older, I got to know Jan McGill, who lived in the house beside the kindergarten. She was a bit younger, but we shared some of the same friends and a few times, I went by her house with one of those friends.

How well I remember her mother, Lillian. She had a sweet face and her eyes kind of crinkled around the edges when she smiled. And Jan’s dad, Frank, was tall and distinguished looking. He looked exactly like I imagined someone with judge in front of his name should look.

Of course, the girls my age were in awe of Jan’s big brother, Chuck. He was so cute and a great football player to boot. My memories of Jan’s big sister, Jean, aren’t quite as clear. I remember that she was friends with my neighbor and was one of the girls all of younger ones admired.

The youngest brother, Bartley, is the one I recall the least. In my mind, he was simply Jan’s baby brother.

When the McGills moved to their new home, it seemed strange to see the house on East Stewart Avenue sitting vacant. It was sad to know the kindergarten was no more, and that the little building was empty.

Memories rushed in when I visited the McGill place recently. The house and the kindergarten building are coming back to life thanks to my friend, Linda Williams, who bought the property and is restoring it.

As I walked into the kindergarten building, I could almost hear the echo of years of children laughing in that room. The house also has a facelift and I think the McGills would approve of what my friend is doing with the place.

This Saturday, Linda opens the house and kindergarten building to the public and invites everyone to visit what for many is an Opp landmark. She hopes those who attended the kindergarten will come by and share their memories with her.

As for me, I’m teaching a free yoga class Saturday in that kindergarten building. And while I’m there, I’ll probably daydream a little about the days when I watched Mrs. McGill’s students enjoying their playtime, and wished I were one of them.