My first memories mostly revolve around family. I remember my grandfather. He fed me Roger’s Golden Syrup by the spoonful to ‘sweeten me up’. He fed me liverwurst too: to this day, I am not quite sure what that did. Grandpa liked to play pool in the basement of the townhouse in which he and my grandmother lived. Grandma baked pies.
There are pictures of those times. We grandchildren lined up on a floral-patterned couch. By the time I was born there were already more than enough grandchildren to occupy the minds and the arms of the people I called ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’ but George and Ida always made me feel like I was the one they loved the best.
I was an awkward child and terribly shy, or so I thought. I remember my first day of grade school. My dad took the morning off work to take me to school. I remember the gray gravel. I dug kicked up dust like a disturbed horse. I didn’t say much; my father understood.
There was a line of about one hundred children who waited to walk reluctantly through the double red doors of the school in new their shoes. My classroom was in the basement; the first students to claim their desks looked up through black bars to skylight. Mayland Heights Elementary School was built in 1975, and in order to adhere to modernist structural aesthetic, it faintly resembled a prison, despite (or maybe because of) the finger-paintings that lined the hallways.
I walked into the classroom holding my father’s hand. I met my very first teacher. Her name was Mrs. Abraham. It was a name that, thanks to my Evangelical background, rang quite familiar. When I heard her name, I imagined the parting of the Red Sea and the image stuck, even though she was East Indian and smelled of Liz Claiborne.
I remember my father saying goodbye to me. Though some vague notion acclimatized me to the fact that had to go, his removal disturbed me tremendously. I remember him saying to me before he left: “Alright, Nicholas, daddy has to go to work now. I will see you as soon as I get home, ok? I can’t wait to hear about your first day!”
Immediately, I started to cry faintly so as not to attract too much attention.
I remember well the classroom’s door. There was a three-by-three-foot-shatter-proof window embedded in pine. I remember my father’s face: he too was in tears as he watched me sobbing silent from the inside.
And then I was alone in room full of six year olds. We met each other and sang songs.