I thought I went to Texas
Sometimes adults just don’t understand children. Texas is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there.
Tell that to my kindergarten teacher.
Make her understand.
We were out of school for Thanksgiving – meaning we had four days to get there and back. From California. And somehow my parents drove me to a dry, arid wasteland where my grandparents recently had moved. They were in the process of renovating an old ranch house.
To this day I don’t know where that house was. It was somewhere in the hills, where there was more dusty, dry gray earth than there was weeds. There were no trees that I can recall. No other houses. Just the earth and the sky and the house and my family. We played there a few days, and went home… and then I went back to school.
Scene: Mira Vista Elementary School, El Cerrito, California. Now the school is private, and renamed Prospect School.
Kindergarten classroom, up the stairs, alone, near the office.
My teacher was Mrs. Johnson. She was a stout old woman with fluffy black hair back then, and probably by now she’s long gone. More than fifty years have passed since the day I got called a liar.She got all the little children to sit in a circle on the floor. A big, round circle of every child in my classroom. And she told us to go around the circle, and one at a time, tell what we had done during our four-day weekend.
These days my first thought would be, “What business was it of hers?”
When my turn came I was at a loss. I really didn’t know where I’d been. I went to see my grandparents – that much I could tell her. When she wanted to know where they lived, I said, “Texas.” The place they lived looked to me like what Texas must look like.
“Did you fly there?” she asked.
“No, we drove,” I replied.
“You couldn’t have done that,” she told me. “You didn’t go to Texas because you didn’t have time to drive there and back.”
My face got red.
I shut down.
I have remembered that moment all my life.