In Memoriam of the Visceral Kindergarten Sentence

I’ve decided to start on a new writing project in hopes of learning how to cope with my writer’s mind transforming. A lot of bat-crazy shit happens when locked away alone for hours day after day, week after week, month after month. “Start at the beginning” is the phrase most commonly heard out of a new therapist’s mouth.

Kindergarten, 1979, was the first time I remember falling in love with the sentence, not individual words mind you, they came much later which actually makes sense since my mother told me when I started talking I spoke in full sentences.

During kindergarten writing time, Mrs. Sawyer sat at her half-moon table in the front of the classroom with her sweet smelling black Magic Marker all set and ready to go. When not in use, she held it up like the Statue of Liberty holds her torch inviting her children to come forward and when utilized it glided across my manilla paper like a painter’s brush thick with paint strokes its canvas.

After completing a detailed drawing, I did the long-walk, squeezing between the tiny school chairs, to the front of the room, where my teacher’s wide grandmotherly bottom balanced on a five-year-old’s chair. As I approached, she smiled with her old-lady gums and gold arches holding in sections of false teeth. I suspected they wouldn’t come loose like my grandmother’s often did.

Before taking the final steps, I stopped and stared at my picture, processing the details, figuring out one sentence, and only one as that was all we were allowed. If chosen carefully, my words would have the power to awaken a world I had just created with 8 fat crayons. For that moment, I felt like God.

With the right words linked together, I opened my mouth and let each syllable loll through the air toward her ear. I could see it in her eyes, she knew my creation fulfilled me. She uncapped her torch and inscribed my sentence with the mindful accuracy only a kindergarten teacher with perfect penmanship could. Before me, her fine print exceeded my expectations. It was like the one present I opened on Christmas eve, chosen deliberately, shaking up and down, back and forth to understand weight, structure, and size.

In 1979, I carried my long manilla sheet, as if it were the Shroud of Turin, back to the table someone’s grandfather made from old plywood in his basement workshop because that’s what people used to do, and copied each letter in my best hand. Still shining with holy wetness, the scent from Magic Marker letters rose to my nostrils and filled me with heaven’s euphoria. Everything in my world was right.

No matter how much time passes, childhood honesty remains the same when I talk to my genius, my muse. My love affair with the written sentence is alive just as much today as it was when I sat in the last seat near the pencil sharpener in Mrs. Sawyer’s class.

With this love also comes fear. Fear of screwing up the feeling of the interlaced words. Fear of not relaying each of them with intent. The same fear that reared its ugly head while standing in front of my fellow first graders preparing to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Last winter, I nearly stopped breathing when reading a paragraph to my nontraditional college-aged peers. A lack of confidence forced me to opt out when given another opportunity by my ever supportive writing tribe. 

My transformation? The more I write, the less confidence I possess. I feel my skin shrinking inside my self. I don’t give permission for the mean geniuses to run amuck. But they still do. Stop, I say. For I too, shall pass on the words that float on the same current of a kindergarten class of long ago. I too, shall allow the good genius to tell her story. I don’t have a choice. I have to listen. I have to relay her sentence for she has a lot to tell.


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