I did kindergarten twice, and have never been given a satisfactory answer as to why. However, since the first year of kindergarten was spent in two different elementary schools, and the second year was at a third, I didn’t really notice. I also don’t think I had any friends until my second year of kindergarten, or that may have given away.
I was a solitary child. I shared a room with my two brothers, and I HATED that. I wanted a room to myself SO BAD that on weekends, I would encourage them to go out and play with their friends, and while they were gone, I would pretend like the room was just mine. The extra beds were just in case a friend wanted to sleep over — I didn’t particularly LIKE that idea, but it was nice to have the option.
I don’t even remember what I used to do with all of that free time. I vaguely remember coloring a little bit. Once I asked my mom if I could play dress-up in her closet, because the twins who lived around the corner said they did that. My mom said “no” but that I could play dress-up with my own clothes. I thought that was a terrible idea, but it worked out.
My best friend in kindergarten’s name was Simple Tan. I don’t think I was her best friend, looking back, but she was the only person who went out of her way to be kind to me, so I liked her. We run into each other once in a while and I’m always happy to see her. She and her family are still the nicest people I’ve ever met.
The first day of kindergarten, I was excited because I’d been going to school for a while and I still didn’t know how to read (boom, there’s your answer as to why I was held back). I really wanted to learn to read because I loved being read to and my mom didn’t do it nearly often enough. She had read a book to me (and probably my brothers too) called Morris the Moose Goes to School in which he learns to count, write, and draw in perspective, all in one day.
So my first day of my second year of kindergarten, I walked to school (probably with my older brother), determined to finally learn how to read. The first day was mostly coloring, and I guess I didn’t know how recess worked because I remember sitting at my table as the other kids all scrambled out of the room.
The teacher came over to me and kind of gently urged me out of the classroom. I stepped over the threshold reluctantly. I didn’t know anyone, and the kids at my past two schools hadn’t been particularly friendly. For a moment, I was hopeful. None of these other kids knew each other, either, right?
My heart sank as I stepped out onto the playground and saw clumps of kids running around, chasing each other. How did they all know each other already? There was a large tree very close to the classroom door, and I decided to spend my time there until the teacher let us in again.
I was walking around on the roots that were growing up out of their concrete prison. A girl came over. She had black pigtails and dark, almond-shaped eyes. She had tan skin, unlike the other kids. “My name is Simple,” she said. I thought that that was a mean name for her parents to give her. Her eyes sparkled brightly. She didn’t seem very simple to me.
“Crystal,” I mumbled.
“Those are my friends,” she said, pointing to twin girls with identical brown pigtail braids and a blonde girl I’d never seen before. “Do you want to come over and play with us?”
“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I said, torn between desperately wanting to have friends like everyone else, and having no idea what to say to any of them.
Simple just looked at me for a moment, and then smiled and took my hand. She led me over to her friends and introduced me. I stood there, listening to them talk, glad to at least seem like I was a part of the group.
Back in the classroom after recess, the little blonde girl sat down across the table from me.
“Were you sitting there before recess?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, frowning. “You borrowed my blue crayon.”
I wanted to laugh about my mistake, but she seemed upset by my question.