Friday, September 6, 2013

How Will the Children Find Peace?

My family was ahead of its time. Mine was not the idyllic late-sixties childhood. I was a latch-key kid a decade or more before there was a name for such a thing.  But even before my latch-key days I was ahead of my time. I attended a unique private school in Culver City, CA which provided both before and after school care.

It began in my pre-K year. I must have been four years old.  My mother and I would get up early in the morning, while it was still dark, to get me dressed in my uniform.  I ate my breakfast, and then we were off to work.  Mom would pull the car up to the curb in front of the school.  There Mrs. Aiken was waiting to escort me through the glass double-doors of that two-story building. It all seems so ritzy in retrospect - as if I were the daughter of a president or a celebrity. At the time it felt ordinary.

Inside those doors they taught the little ones, pre-K and Kindergarten, to sing in French.  They taught us to use paste, and not to eat it. They let us play, too, in the miniature wooden kitchen, and with a little wooden train set.

When we reached 1st Grade we wore different uniforms through those doors.  Gone were the neat stiff blue-jeans and checked collared shirts. Big kids, we wore navy jumpers, white blouses and saddle shoes, and navy cardigans with a crest over our hearts.  Now we were taught that if we were not busy with an assignment, we were to sit silent and still, hands folded and two feet on the ground.

They also taught us to dance.  It was an escape for little girls like me, from sitting still, and from sports. On Monday, Tap.  On Tuesday, Ballet. On Wednesday, Tap.  On Thursday, Ballet.  And so it alternated five days a week, every week of the school year.  Ballet was the great joy of my early school years.

We also learned Spanish, and English, and Math, and spelling.  I worked hard.  We all did. To do otherwise was impermissible. As the hours passed we were ushered from one room to the next to learn each subject in a group organized not by grade-level but by our ability and personal progress.

I learned fast and well behind those doors.  I also worked late.

This school not only provided morning supervision before classes, but after-school care, decades before such programs would become commonplace.  As a result, I would arrive at school between 7 and 7:30 in the morning and remain behind those doors until 5:30 or 6, depending on how long my mom remained trapped in L.A. traffic.  At certain times of the year it would be barely light when I was dropped off and dark when I got picked up to finally go home.  I still remember the desolation of sometimes being the last child left, dark windows in my periphery, waiting to go home.

And so, I remember my first day at Sunday School.

It was shortly after my mom remarried and we moved to a different town. For some reason, my mom got it into her head to join the Lutheran church up the street.  Perhaps we always went to church, but this is the first I remember of it.

As we got out of the car, Mom handed me a quarter, and I burst in to tears.

"What's the matter, Laurie?"

It was money for the offering plate.

But I thought it was lunch money. I thought was being sent off for another day of school, on the weekend. I was heartbroken.

Sadly, aside from felt-boards and smells, that first moment is all I remember of the years of Sunday School that would follow.  I would never love it, because it would always represent for me a theft from the few precious unscheduled hours of my life.

And so, today, forty years or more later, when I see mommies and daddies rushing kids from here to there, from one scheduled, supervised activity to the next, my heart breaks a little.  How will those children ever view church as anything but another thing on the already-full schedule?  How will they ever recognize Christ as anything more than an add-on to an already-full life?  How will they ever have the quiet moments to recognize the beauty of God's creation, to commune with their own souls, to count their blessings and reckon with their sins?  When will they consider life and beauty, death and eternity?

As I consider how pressured I felt back then, how precious my unstructured down-time was to me, I think how much worse things would have been if I also had the technology available to me that kids have now. Would I have ever read a book just because I wanted to, drawn a picture just for the joy of it, or prayed in the quiet emptiness of my own room?


24 Corners said...

Hello Laurie, I was searching on the web for something about The Genevieve Horton School and came upon your blog post...this is Jessica Mike (now Carlson), we went to school together there. I was so thrilled to see your post, I have very fond memories of the school, it was a special place, and I have very fond memories of you too, I believe I spent the night at your house once or twice. Anyway, your blog is fantastic...and it's been a joy to find you. I also have a blog but incredibly, this past year has been an extremely difficult one and my last post was almost one year ago, I should remedy that! Blessings to you Laurie...xo Jessica

Laurie M. said...

Jessica! I DO remember you. I remember spending the night at your home too! This is so amazing. I can picture your face. I will look at your blog and I will look for you on Facebook. Hopefully you are there. I have wondered about you many times. We went to the TeePee Club together too, I think.

I am still so grateful for the years I spent at Genevieve Horton, and only wish I had stayed longer, rather than leaving after 3rd grade. I still draw on the lessons I learned there. I left the 3rd grade nearly ready for junior high. What a fine education!

24 Corners said...

Laurie, how wonderful that you remember me too, and that you remember spending the night (which I'd love to chat with you about, do you recall any drama?). I've thought of you often as well, it's funny when you think about it, we actually only knew each other a few short years but the memories of that time seem to have stuck for both of us, no wonder we were buddies (does pricking our fingers and becoming blood sisters ring a bell?)...and I thought you and I were in TeePee Club together, I'm so glad you confirmed it, another special and unique place that I have fond memories of. The building is still there (I google mapped it) but the pool is gone, as is the big parking lot next door where the tether ball and all those little school buses used to be, that's an apartment now, but everything else is the same.

So much to catch up on and remember, we'll have to email.
I followed you on facebook and left you a message which they said would be in your 'other' folder (or file) since we weren't connected yet.

I'm looking forward to visiting with you Laurie...hope you've had a lovely New Years weekend!

Kathy E. said...

I'm so glad to have found your post about the Genevieve Horton School. That was my daughter's first school, starting at age 2 1/2 in February 1970. Your description is exactly as I remember it and brings back so many wonderful memories of that school. I think I even remember a "Mrs. Aiken" that you mentioned, but am not positive. Again, thank you so much for this post. There is nothing else online about that school, not that I've found, so it's really nice to have found your reminiscences.

Laurie M. said...

Kathy, I'm sorry to be so late in noticing your comment! It's been a busy year, so busy, in fact, that I only just realized I haven't written a single post so far.

Would you be willing to share you daughter's name? I and 24 Corners, both attended GH during that time. We would have been ahead of your daughter. I would have been in Kindergarten in 1970.

I still have my yearbooks from those days. I might be able to share them with you.

If you like, contact me via email. (I believe you can email me if you visit my profile.)