Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up.

Boulder Day Nursery, where I started school at the age of three, was the stereotypical Boulder pre-school. At the time (1980, or so), it was run by some of my mom's hippy-dippy friends.

I loved it there. We spent our days playing in large tubs of soapy water, learning to tie our shoes, and singing "I'm Being Followed By a Moonshadow."

From the three years I spent there, I can remember quite a few full days. I can even remember some of the daily routines. For instance, at lunch several kids would be chosen to shuttle food to and from the kitchen. We would wait patiently at the kitchen door for more vegan soba noodles or large pitchers of milk (both soy and dairy), which were normally handed to us by a perpetually old-looking woman named Bee.

At reading time, we read great books by authors like Maurice Sendak (In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are), Shell Silverstien (Where the Sidewalk Ends), and, my favorite, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola.

My first girlfriend was a student at Boulder Day. Her name was Sonja, and she had a huge, curly head of hair and olive skin. She convinced me to touch tongues with her one day, and the feeling scared me horribly.

I also remember the various injuries and emergencies that happened while I was there. I fractured my collarbone when I tripped over the exposed root of a tall tree on the playground. While visiting Pearl Street Mall as a group outing, I slipped on a slick rock and bit right through my tongue. I was also nearby when several of my friends got caught eating berries from a bush, which may or may not have been poisonous. I pled innocence, but, "just to be safe," they made us swallow syrup of ipecac, which makes kids and adults alike explode with projectile vomiting. Between heaves, I pointed down into my bucket of throwup, saying "See? SEE? I didn't eat any!"

I can remember the day we learned how to wash our hands. I can remember making pinhole cameras out of Quaker Oats cylinders. I can remember a scavenger hunt wherein the prize was a plastic piggy bank from the credit union down the block. And I can remember the day after my fifth birthday, when I brought my new fireman's helmet to school and wore it the entire day.

I was friends with most of the kids there, but on weekends my mom would hang out with some of the other parents, and I would have playdates with their kids. One of my favorite friends was named Keggie (kedge-ee), a girl who was as cute as a button. She had a little round face framed by straight straw-colored hair, huge blue eyes, a golden laugh, and she always seemed to be wearing overalls.

I've been told that remembering this kind of detail from childhood is rare.

Years later, when I was maybe 19, I was waiting in line for a keg beer at a Hawaiian luau in Boulder, and the same girl, Keggie, walked up to the other side of the keg, cutting in line in front of a half-dozen guys at the party. I hadn't seen her since my last day of pre-school, but I recognized her instantly.

No one said a word to her about cutting in line; Keggie had grown into a full-fledged knockout, and she knew it. There was only one guy in front of me, so I said something to her. "Hey, I think I went to pre-school with you!"

She looked at me and pulled her head back, crinkling one eyebrow and raising the other. She said, "Oh?"

"Yeah!" I said, "Where'd you go to pre-school?"

With the same look on her face, she said, "Listen, I'm here with my boyfriend..."

I started reeling off details about Boulder Day. Keggie's mother was a potter, and she had a kiln and some half-finished pots in the back yard. We once spent an afternoon smashing pottery scraps. I could even remember exactly what her room looked like: "You had the alphabet as wallpaper in your room. "A" was for apple, "B" was for boat, and "R" was for robot."

She stood there, speechless, her beer now running over from the flowing tap.

I looked her right in the eye and said, "Yeah. I wasn't hitting on you. Don't flatter yourself." Then I took the tap from her hand and started filling the cup belonging to the guy in front of me.

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