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Do You Remember Your First Day of School?

back to school

As I write, it’s the first day of school in our community. Do you ever forget how you felt on your own first days of school?

I had great parents, but I am still a little irritated about a bit of a misunderstanding on my first day of kindergarten.

It was a private kindergarten. Back then, the school had no real need and even less desire to pick up kids at hospital neonatal units. But Mom and Dad thought kindergarten would be good for me. They didn’t have any extra money lying around, so they must’ve thought this was important. I think they were right.

To my dying day, though, I’ll swear they told me that we were going to visit the kindergarten, but I didn’t have to stay that day unless I wanted to.

We went. It seemed fine. But I decided that, all things considered, I had better things to do. I would, of course, consider the kindergarten option as I had time and opportunity, but, for the present, I figured I’d just go home and play with my little brother, thank you very much.

You see the train coming, don’t you? Yes, my parents left me right there on the tracks. I mean, at the kindergarten. I remember some tears on both sides.

I also remember, later, growing seedlings in cardboard milk cartons, coloring pictures, molding clay, etc. Months later, I graduated with honors.

Honestly, I don’t know how I ranked in the class. We didn’t learn the alphabet in kindergarten then, and I don’t remember any algebra. (Not really any from high school, either. I pretty much sang my way through secondary school, but that’s another story.)

I do remember my sweet kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Marvine Francis. And she remembers me! I was thrilled to get a note from her just a few years ago. She must’ve started teaching when she was 12.

Mrs. Francis got me off to a great start and then promoted me up to Mr. Birchfield and Mrs. Carmody at Amarillo’s San Jacinto Elementary School the next fall. They, too, were amazing. You’d have to work hard to find parents who loved kids more than my earliest teachers did. Ah, great teachers have always been one of God’s very finest blessings!

My wife and I talked to our three school-age granddaughters yesterday. Two were pretty excited; one, about half-excited. I was always more than halfway like her not-so-excited half. I always deeply mourned the loss of summer. It felt like my parole was being revoked.

One of our sweet gals is officially starting kindergarten. I remember when her daddy started. My wife took him to his first day of school. I couldn’t have done it. As she hugged him and left him at the classroom in the school just down the street from our house, he looked up and said, “Mama, something’s wrong with my eyes.”

No, something was right with his eyes. And hers. And mine, too. Pure tears are good for eyes. I bet his are a little moist this morning. Mine are. Again.


      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“It’s Just a Fact, But a Fact It Is . . .”

school 01

It’s just a fact, but a fact it is, that the teachers who most influenced my life early on were Methodists.

San Jacinto Elementary in Amarillo, Texas, was evidently a hotbed of Methodism. Or maybe it was just that my primary school path there was colored by the presence of three of them. Someday I’ll write another column and give Baptists and Church of Christ folks and Lutherans, etc., some well-deserved good words for their blessing in my life. But today, these fifty years after they taught me, I’m thanking God for three “Methodees,” as Franklin Roosevelt smilingly called their breed.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Vera Carmody. I thought she was old and fierce. But she couldn’t have been what the Bible describes as “full of years” because she had a great many left to fill up. She lived to be 1000 or so. (Actually, 101! Born in 1899; died in 2000!)

But I was right about the fierce part. (Lucille Ball’s red hair was just a sparkler compared to Mrs. Carmody’s fireball red!) Mrs. Carmody was fiercely devoted to teaching first-graders not only how to read but how to live. She checked our hair, our teeth, and our fingernails, as well as the notebooks where we pasted pictures of apples for A, bananas for B, etc. I’d still like to see some trendy educational egghead try to tell Mrs. Carmody that kids could learn to read worth squat and not be taught phonics. She’d swat the prof’s hand with her legendary ruler, sit his tail in a chair, and enforce silence in the room until he sounded out whatever word she prescribed for his cure.

I don’t know if Mrs. Carmody believed that “every child can learn.” But I’m sure she believed every child in her classroom darn well would learn—or else. Fierce? Oh, yes! She fiercely loved us all. Methodist, she was.

And then there was Mrs. Maxine Faulkner. Third grade. I learned the “Lord’s Prayer” not at church where I should have, but in Mrs. Faulkner’s third grade class. We stood and recited that prayer, along with the Pledge of Allegiance, every morning. We had no idea how much damage we were doing to the Constitution of these United States. (I’m kidding. And crying.) I remember singing as she played the piano. By the way, she played the piano for her Sunday School class two months before she died. Also age 101! Methodist, she was.

Setting the tone for the whole school (all six grades) was one of the finest men I’ve ever known, Mr. Robert Birchfield. I will always think of this big, kind, gentle, amazingly strong and loving man with deep affection and gratitude. A father to us all, what a smile he had! What a hug! What a man! Methodist, he was.

All three of these folks were members of Amarillo’s Polk Street United Methodist Church. No particular point here—other than what a nice thing it is for any congregation when folks think of their members and “blessing” in the same thought—I’ve just always had very warm feelings toward Polk Street UMC and these three fine “Methodees.” I owe them much.

Christians, they were. Unashamedly so. Committed to Christ and thus committed to little children like me.

I hope I’ve made them proud. I know I thank God every day that folks of deep faith, and these three of the Methodist variety, have been such a blessing to me.


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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