I was in the corridors of Clarkdale Elementary School before kindergarten only once. I was getting some vaccination along with perhaps every other child my age around Yavapai County. The dread of the needle overtook anything else I may have noticed there that day. I remember being in a line of children shuffling forward like beef stock. I arrived at a table and someone swabbed my arm.
“I don’t want my arm washed,” I protested too late. Then I was shunted forward. I looked to my left and there was a man dressed as a doctor. He was glancing around as if he was as lost then he noticed my arm. There was no eye contact. He reached out and I felt the needle stick and burst into tears.
Something like a year later I stood in about the same spot and felt even greater fear. It was my first day of school. I had told my teacher the same thing I told everyone who gave me an ear. I said I was a policeman. More than the cool uniforms or the exciting music of Adam 12 on TV the thing I liked best about police was the cars. I didn’t pay much attention to the dialogue or plot of my favorite program. I just liked when they drove their black and white code three.
So on my first day of Kindergarten I told Miss Tatch that I was a policeman. She told me that she had a good job for a policeman. She sent me to the office with the attendance report.
My clearest memory of Clarkdale Elementary School is the cavernous hallways. The floors were wide and dark brown. The walls were dark and towering. The ceiling seemed miles overhead. I exited the classroom and walked close to the wall with the attendance slip. When it was necessary to cross to the other side I looked both ways. The enormity grew around me. My little legs took little steps and I made it into the warm office.
They took the paper and thanked me. I turned around and walked out the way I came and then I was back in the hall. The front entrance was on my left. I took a few steps to my right and recognized where I was. I was right where the doctor with the needle had stood a year before. But that didn’t matter. The light from the front doors made the walls seem even taller. Suddenly I felt like a mouse on a wide freeway. Then there was Miss Tatch standing by the classroom door smiling at me and I found my way back.
Even to this day high walls and ceilings make me a little nervous.
One other important note is just a day later and a thousand miles away Prajna was born. There is no way I could have fathomed at the time what joy this would eventually bring to me.