share our similarities, celebrate our differences.
She was scared. Her uniform black pants and white polo were itchy new and her lunch box was too heavy and her backpack made her feel like a turtle. Last year, she had been so jealous when Will and Ian left for their first day of third grade. Today, they had raced ahead to find their fourth grade classroom, while Daddy showed her where to go.
She felt more like a baby than a big girl, which was strange, because she was never scared. But today, if Daddy let go, she would run screaming away from kindergarten and the first day of school.
Of course, her brothers had stayed up late last night warning her about the witches who taught the classes, how they sucked the souls out of all the children and slapped hands with a ruler if a child was naughty. Louisa hadn’t really believed it last night, but now . . .
“Here we are.” Daddy sounded pleased. Louisa gripped his hand tighter. “See? Look at all the pencils on the wall. I think I see one with your name on it.”
Louisa looked. He was right. There were pictures of pencils with big black letters taped at just eye height over the grey walls. She looked—there was the L -O-U-I-S-A for Louisa. She pointed at the right one and smiled up at Daddy. He nodded.
She smiled. She and Mommy had practiced her alphabet and her numbers so that she would be ready. Will and Ian were always so much quicker than she was, but Mommy was always so proud when she remembered a new letter.
But now, at the door, Louisa could see a lady with a big white nametag and a smile. She didn’t look like a witch, but Louisa gripped Daddy’s hand just to make sure.
“Hello, I’m Miss Litten. And you must be Louisa.” Louisa nodded. She didn’t seem evil. “Inside, there’s a cubby for you to put your backpack and a table with your name on it. Can you find them?”
Louisa nodded again.
“I’ll just talk to your daddy for a minute, and you go find your name.”
Louisa looked up. Daddy was smiling. “Have fun, sweetie.”
Her hand felt cold as she took the last few steps into the classroom. But inside, everything was light and color and noise. There was music playing and the sound of other children chattering. There were posters on the walls and a corner filled with books.
Under the windows, there was a shelf of toys that one little boy was standing in front of and a row of cubbyholes with name labels. She walked over and found her name and put in her pack. Near the ceiling there was a long poster with the entire alphabet on it, even J, which she always had trouble remembering. In front of the teacher’s desk, there were tables and chairs.
Louisa looked around for her name. There it was. There were four names, but only one boy was sitting there, coloring with a basket of crayons in the middle of the table. He looked scared-er than she was.
She pulled out her chair, which was right next to his, and sat down. “Hi, I’m Louisa. What’s your name?”
“James.” He looked up and almost smiled, and then picked a different crayon.
Louisa stared down at her paper and frowned. Lines—she hated lines. They interrupted. But that was ok. She could work around them. Colors were the important part. She grabbed two crayons at random and started at the kitty-cat’s ear, layering the colors over each other to see what would happen. As she got tired of one, she picked another. Green to blue to gold to red to orange to purple to green.
At one point she heard Daddy call to her and she waved goodbye. But she was more distracted by the fact that James had the prettiest blue green that he was using on the collar. “May I?”
He nodded and handed her the crayon. “I wish I could do what you’re doing.”
She looked at his page. His kitty-cat was brown and white, and colored inside the lines. “Yours is more real. Do you have a cat at home?”
“Yes. His name is Lucky.” He smiled at her and she smiled back.
It wasn’t too long after, that Miss Litten stood in the front of the classroom and started talking. Not everyone paid attention—in fact, some of the people in the front table were talking, too, but Louisa poked James in the arm and they both listened to the teacher.
“Welcome to kindergarten. We’re going to have a lot of fun this year. But first, everyone put their names on their pictures, and we’re going to display them on our picture wall.” She pointed to a space next to the door that Louisa hadn’t noticed before.
The children who had been wandering through the classroom went back to their desks. Miss Litten circled the room, helping write names. The boy at the toy shelf hadn’t even found his table. Miss Litten walked over and talked with him for a moment, and he nodded. He came and sat on the other side of James.
“Eric, do you want me to help you write your name on your picture?” Miss Litten leaned over, but Eric just shook his head and grabbed a crayon. She patted his shoulder and moved on. “I like your picture, James. You’re very good at staying in the lines.”
At that, Louisa stared at her picture. She could barely see the lines under the layers and layers of color. Had she gotten it wrong on the very first day?
Then Miss Litten came behind her and gasped. “Louisa, that’s beautiful. I like it. We do a lot of things with art in kindergarten—you know so much about mixing colors already, that I know you’ll be one of my good helpers.”
Just then there was a knock at the door. One of the office ladies came in with a little girl in tow. Miss Litten talked to them for a minute, and then brought her over to sit next to Louisa. “This is Desiree.” The girl was biting her lip as though she were trying not to cry.
Louisa smiled at her, and handed her a crayon. “Hi, Desiree. I’m Louisa, and this is James and Eric.” The boys looked up at their names.
Desiree’s lip trembled. “Mommy left me at the door because she had to go to work, and I got lost.”
Louisa stood and gave her a hug. “It’s all right. Now you know where the classroom is, so you won’t get lost again tomorrow.” Desiree nodded, her braids bobbing. Louisa looked around. “What’s your favorite color?”
“Like your barrettes?” Louisa reached over and grabbed the pink crayon and gave it to her new friend.
After a couple of minutes, Louisa looked over. Desiree was coloring everything pink, the kitten and the collar and the sun and the grass.
The four colored in friendly silence until Miss Litten collected the pictures and called the class over to a corner of the room that had a chair for her and mats for the children to sit on. Louisa let Desiree hold her hand, even though she held on too tight.
“This morning I gave everyone a coloring sheet. Did you know, everyone had exactly the same cat to begin with?” She held up a cat that hadn’t been colored. The children all nodded. “Well, then you got here, and you used your imaginations.” She held up each picture, tacking them to the picture wall and calling out the names of each child. “Do you know what? Every single picture is different.”
The children gasped. She was right. Some were careful and stayed in the lines, some were scribbled, and Eric’s was blank except for his name written in block letters across the bottom. But no one had used the same colors or scribbled the same way.
“Aren’t you glad we’re different? Could you imagine how boring it would be if everyone drew the same way?” Everyone laughed. “Even though we’re all wearing the same school uniform, we all have different hair and eyes and skin tone.”
Louisa looked around her. Miss Litten was right. No one else had red curly hair like Louisa, or bunches of black braids in pink barrettes like Desiree. James was blonde and Eric was dark and looked as though he was an Indian like in Cowboys and Indians.
“We’re all different. But we’re here to learn and grow together. We’re going to have a lot of fun this year—reading books and learning our letters and numbers. We’ll exercise and do art and music. We’ll even get to play with toys.” Everyone cheered. “Who’s ready to start learning?”
Everyone raised their hands and shouted “Me!”
Miss Litten had a big smile. “Let’s start by having story time. When it’s story time, we come here to the reading corner, and sit on your mats, and I will read to you.” She pulled out a storybook that Louisa had never seen before.
Louisa looked around. On her right, Desiree still was clutching her hand, but had loosened her grip as she got into the story. On her left, James’ eyes were wide as he listened to the story.
Will and Ian were wrong about so many things. Kindergarten was wonderful—she already had made friends and Miss Litten thought that her picture was beautiful. She was not a soul sucking witch. She was the most wonderful teacher ever.
With a sigh of contentment, Louisa settled in to listen to the story.
word count: 1673