Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuition Slips


When I was five, we were living in Chicago. I went to a kindergarten called Camelot, though I do not particularly remember this as a fairy tale place. Truthfully, I don't remember much about it at all. Only three things: One was that my teacher's name was Miss Kathy. The second thing was that I was not allowed to bring a lunch from home (which pretty much wrecked me, since I was a very picky eater at that age, and "sloppy joe" was definitely not in my culinary repertoire) and the exit from the cafeteria was barred by "lunch monitors," whose job it was to inspect the trays you were returning when the mealtime was over. I don't recall anyone ever forcing me to turn around, sit back down, and eat whatever had displeased me—I don't recall what they actually did about the kids who hadn't eaten whatever the food of the day happened to be—but I do remember dreading that moment of egress, when I could see up the steps leading to freedom outside, but had to pass the tray Nazis first. Not that I knew what a Nazi was, and not that they were anywhere approaching evil or even remotely horrible to us, but the whole thing seems absurdly strict when dealing with five-year-olds. The third and only other thing I remember about this early school experience was that every so often, as we kids were lining up to get on the mini-bus that took us home, someone from the school office would use a safety pin to attach a thin yellow slip of paper to each child's coat—I assume so that we would not lose the paper and that it would make it home safely to our parents. Perhaps they were also concerned about saving money on postage? Anyway, the slips of paper were carbon-copy (when there still was such a thing) receipts for tuition payments. And the thing I remember about these receipts was that, for some reason, I thought they looked like something that might taste good. I have no idea why I thought to eat these faint-blue-ink-on-yellow-paper goodies. Maybe the bus ride was boring. Probably it had something to do with the lunch monitors and uneaten sloppy joes (or other mystery food); I likely was pretty darn hungry. But eat them I did. I remember tearing off a small corner of yellow paper, rolling it into a ball between my fingers, and then starting to chew on it. One small piece became another, larger one; before I knew it, the whole thing was gone. More than taste, I remember the texture of the paper pulp as it got wet and started to break up inside my mouth. I don't know how many of these I ate. I don't know whether my parents ever wondered about not getting receipts for their payments. I don't know if they remember this habit of mine (they may not know about it; after all, I was swallowing the evidence in its entirety). It's weird, I admit. But maybe it was the earliest indication that a life of ink and paper lay in store.

4 comments:

  1. LOL!
    This post made me laugh. Thanks.

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  2. You're welcome. I like to remind myself (and others) that we can't be serious all the time, and if we can't poke a little fun at ourselves, what are we good for? Thanks for reading.

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  3. That's hysterical! Now I actually know someone who ate paper as a kid. Are you sure you weren't missing any vitamins? Have you googled paper pulp? ; )

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  4. I don't think it was vitamin deficiency, but who knows. I'm just thankful it wasn't peeling, lead-based paint!

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