I was five years old and it was the first half of the Kindergarten year. We had already gone through the early part of the school year, making friends, learning the routines. We had celebrated the fall holidays, marched in the Halloween Parade, and we had dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians as we learned about Thanksgiving. I was settled into my half-day at the Kings Road School, never having gone to school until I was five, and I had my brother upstairs with the fourth graders. I felt secure.
We were in a carpool and our mothers took turns driving us, dropping us off at the bottom of the hill on which the school sat. The long path which led up to the building had concrete steps that took us through a turn and another long walk, along the front of the school, down to the end where the Kindergarten kids went.
I was confident as I got out of the car that morning. I knew where to go and that day it was our mother’s turn to drive the carpool. Full of energy, my brother and I blasted out of our station wagon and raced up the path and towards the steps. Mom watched.
I must have been laughing as I ran to catch up to my brother, for that was the feeling I always had when I chased him. He would keep a pace that was always faster, but not too fast, so that I had the feeling I could catch him if I tried.
We reached the steps and mixed in with other children doing the same thing, some of them, the older ones, skipping steps and showing off to the younger grades. I was still laughing, watching these older kids, watching their long legs, including my brother’s, leap over a middle step and reach the top in half the time. I thought I could do that too, skip up swiftly, for my arms were free and I felt light on my feet.
But something different happened. I made the leap and my legs, being shorter, could not span the distance to the next step. It was cold that day and when I fell down, just for a second, I could feel the iciness of the metal rail on my fingertips as I reached for it, hoping to catch myself, but instead going down on the hard concrete step.
I felt a crack when I fell, right on the bony knob on the outside of my ankle. My brother, already nearing the front entrance, had turned to check on me just in time. He ran back to me, against the noisy flow of boys and girls running and laughing and rushing to the front door. I saw him wave his arms to our mother, and moments later, Mom was with us. She sent my brother off to class and the two of us sat on the steps, now cleared of children and I cried into her heavy wool coat and fiddled with its square woven leather buttons.
They called it a chip. It was easy to say and I felt important when I told the story to my teacher, to my classmates. Mom carried me up those steps and down that long path to my classroom, every day for a week.
The days passed, my ankle healed, and the event became a short chapter in the history of our family. Forgotten for years until I also became a mother. Then I hoped for a new generation of small Kindergarten moments.
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