Years ago, I worked at a gift shop on Athens’ town square. It was the place people gathered to hear gossip, to buy gifts and expensive tchotchkes for their homes.
One day, my doctor’s wife and young daughter came in to buy a present.
“I’m going to start kindergarten,” the little girl announced to the room.
“Will you go a full day or a half day?” I asked, unfamiliar with the local school system.
“A half day,” she answered.
“Are you excited?” I asked.
“No,” she said, then added regally, “We get out of school at noon. I don’t even get out of bed till noon.”
Oh, a child after my own heart.
Though I have always loved learning, school held zero appeal for me. I hated it from Day One of kindergarten to the last day of senior year. Hated it.
If school had started at a decent hour, say 1 p.m., I might have warmed up to it a bit. But 8 a.m.?
The first five years of my life were free flowing and magical, and sleeping late was one of life’s great pleasures.
“The first thing I taught my children was to sleep until 11,” my mother used to say. She wasn’t exaggerating.
My sisters, seven and 10 years older, were already in school when I was born, but in the summer we stayed in bed until the heat drove us up and out. (This was Savannah, and we had no air conditioning.)
Of course, I’d gotten up early before my first day of kindergarten. There was Christmas, of course, and early departures for vacations, but even then I was loaded into the car like luggage, still wearing my pajamas, my sleep barely disturbed until we stopped for lunch.
My first day of school was supposed to be in September, days after my fifth birthday. We had just moved to Atlanta (trauma No. 1) and were staying with Aunt Maggie and Uncle Billy for a week until our house was ready (trauma No. 2). Shortly after our arrival, my cousin, Jimmy, accidentally hit me as hard as he could on the head with a baseball bat (trauma No. 3), then my cousin, Little Billy, and I wrecked my parents’ car (trauma No 4.) (We were playing in it, I took it out of gear by accident, we got out and the car rolled down the hill into the neighbor’s shed.) Did I mention Aunt Maggie had a newborn?
Mom realized I was dealing with a healthy dose of change. The night before the first day of kindergarten, she said, “If you don’t want to start school right away, you can wait.”
“No,” I said. “I want to go to school.”
When she came to wake me the next morning, it wasn’t daylight yet. I remember getting up, woozy and out of sorts, then it dawned on me: I could choose sleep or I could go to school. I chose sleep.
One morning months later, Mom said, “You know you can’t stay at home forever. You’re going to have to start school sometime.” I didn’t see why, but knew it was a battle I couldn’t win.
And so it began, the abandonment of the warm bed for the cruel realities of dawn.
Decades have passed since that first early rising. I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.