Welcome back to my ongoing story series about growing up in Maine!
So this time around, I’m gonna tell you guys about my preschool.
Me and all the other toddlers in the
bumfuck Greene area ended up thrown haphazardly into Pooh School: the most country-ass preschool you ever did see.
Now Pooh School was smack dab in the middle of a farm. This is not an exaggeration. Miss Gayle, our headmistress so to speak, was farmer turned founder. The preschool was perched on a few sprawling acres of land, including the main building, a pool, and playground/petting zoo surrounded by poorly blocked off woodland area.
Now when I say the woods were “blocked off”, I mean the teachers at the preschool strongly cautioned us to stay away from the woods. There really was no fence or anything of the sort to keep you from just… wandering. It was hard to distinguish playable woods from forbidden woods so honestly the teachers were relying on our overactive imaginations to keep us from venturing too far.
A half-assed reprimand was not enough to keep us idiots out of the woods, but usually something mildly devastating would happen and prevent us from further exploration.
For instance, the shorts incident.
There had been some juicy talk around the lunch table concerning a tree that had fallen down in the woods. It was far enough to alert the teachers of our absence, but not enough that they would bother to punish us. Imagine us all, huddled around in our little Ocean’s 11 pitch scene.
However, having no concept of currency and an inability to assess risk, jumping on a tree in the woods was good enough for us.
We had all hobbled our way down the hill and walked for what seemed like hours into the middle of the forest
We lined up along the trunk, navigating the mossy balance beam like the best of ’em. The end of the tree was raised a few feet off the ground and every Maine kid worth their salt knows, it isn’t a true routine without a dismount. My friends had all jumped, one by one, and landed giggling on both feet before looking up at me. I paused – the crippling self-doubt and general paranoia had started early on in life for me – and I was looking down the barrel of a gun.
Because peer pressure and the need to prove one’s self starts just as early, I bounced once, twice, three times before hurling myself off the end.
There have been many, many times in my life where I’ve genuinely wondered what I did to deserve something so wretched. I’ve wallowed in self-pity, allowed myself to conjure theories about my past lives as a killer or a thief, unwilling to repent and therefore condemned to suffer in this life. I’ve come to realize however that sometimes shit happens and that is why the end of the tree caught the seat of my small cotton shorts, ripping the entire backside nearly off.
I only hope that you have friends like I did that day, one resolutely decided to walk in front of me and the other in back. We trudged back up the hill that way, I being the weepy, humiliated meat of a solemn and regretful sandwich. I don’t even remember the aftermath. It was probably such a horrific chastising, I’ve repressed it. Scrubbed it from my memory just as Miss Kim would, pouring Peroxide into the open wound while you screamed bloody murder from the tiny, desolate bathroom.
The women who ran this place were saints, given the havoc we would wreak. If it weren’t for these women, I’d probably have every type of Hepatitis and look like a Pollack painting.
Miss Kim could bring you back to life with a bottle of Peroxide and a tongue depressor.
It’s also important to note that they had two giant St. Bernards that ran rampant through the school. They were taller than most of us and we naturally assumed they were bears. At least I did.
I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone, considering I think most people survived Pooh School with significantly less psychological trauma. I have always been a magnet for carnage. It followed me around like a pet, tapping me on the shoulder to remind me of my daily ass-kicking.
There was that time they showed an Eyewitness documentary (do you remember those fuckin things? They had books and documentaries and are responsible for 90% of my learning) about dinosaurs. And I was not. having. it.
I’m not afraid of dinosaurs now, nor do I remember having one explicitly back then, but I was not about that documentary at all. I like to sit and watch it now because I am a masochistic little shit.
There was also the time I had the flu and sat in the corner, shivering uncontrollably under several layers of sweaters.
Also the time my dad took me and my friends for a ride in the trailer he attached to the back of his bike (this preschool was like, ten minutes away from my house – so my dad just rode his bike with me in the trailer behind. You cannot get more small town than this.) and the trailer tipped and I landed on my side, skidding through the gravel. The unpaved driveway was basically just rocks, proceeding to scratch through the clear vinyl and leaving a set of claw marks across my right cheek. I know I should thank whomever is responsible for saving my face from a Wolverine scar, but sometimes I wonder how much cooler I’d be.
And of course, I think I have Pooh School to blame for my hard-fought childhood battle against claustrophobia. I was in the bathroom once and some older kid just decided to lean on the door, leaving me banging and crying and wailing on the other side, trying to escape. This would eventually lead to my refusing to close the bathroom door through Kindergarten and early elementary school. We had super heavy metal doors and I was horrified of being locked inside, so teachers would have to stand in front of the door so the other kids didn’t tumble in while I peed.
All that said, it was a pretty great school!!!! It’s where I met the kids I would grow to become best friends with, following them through school all the way into college. This also meant we knew each other far too intimately, cruelly reminding each other of our childhood horror stories. So is the fate of a small town kid. All in all, I’m grateful. Thanks everyone for not letting me die.