There are few things on earth that can make a first grader giddier than being treated like a big kid in the classroom, or so my charges have stated time and again. And nothing but nothing even comes close to creating more joy within and among said creatures than conferring upon them their own special school space—a desk. The sort with a cavernous interior for squirreling away all-that-is-precious and good—treasures worthy of eternal possession. The sort with a smooth and spacious writing surface that sparkles and shimmers in the light. The sort that smells of wood and polish, although neither may, in fact, be present. The sort that stands solid and sturdy among the masses and boasts that all-important name tag on its face—one that proudly proclaims to the world, “This is MINE! I live here!”
I can certainly relate to experiencing such joy as I was once a first grader—with a shiny big kid desk I could call my very own. I had graduated from the rainbow of carpet squares upon which we kindergarteners napped, and from those oversized, odd-shaped tables that seemed better suited for a business conference than for learning. Needless to say, I was more than thrilled to move on to bigger and better things down the hall in Mrs. Davis’ first grade classroom, where there were spaces in our togetherness.
But independence didn’t come without cost. Duty tagged along. Our desks were our responsibility and keeping them neat and tidy (or at least tolerably so) was of utmost importance. Thankfully my neat freak tendencies (read: my ridiculous obsession with ordering my world) had already surfaced, so the task at hand was barely a challenge for me. Everything had its place and I liked it that way. But I remember others who struggled mightily with the chore.
You know the ones—the kids who couldn’t find anything to save themselves. The ones who never took anything home and who crammed an ungodly pile of papers, projects and pencils inside their desks, impossibly, as if stuffing a Thanksgiving turkey. Scissors and paste. Crayons and coins. Wadded masses of homework, at various stages of completion, and those lovely little Pink Pearl erasers. All of it came tumbling down like a landslide on occasion—especially if the delicate balance holding the contents in place was somehow upset. A sneeze was often to blame. A seemingly simple and innocuous event that sent everything crashing to the floor at once. Then the cavalry was sent in to rescue the sorry soul from himself (i.e. a lucky classmate was instructed to “Help so-and-so get his desk organized, would you, please?”). Sheez, I’d forego recess for such good fortune.
Even then I found it liberating to bring order to chaos. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t my chaos per se. It was someone’s and it begged to be restored. However, at that juncture in my life the task was far more manageable, and it did little to prepare me for the insanely disordered existence I now face as a parent. But success is relative. I consider it a major accomplishment that most of the people living under this roof have matching socks, some of which are clean. Never mind that our garage is roughly three sleds, two bicycles and a kiddie pool away from being a home for wayward toys. Our socks match. Mostly.
The day I received my first grade desk, along with a host of other meaningful events on the path to independence, may have long since passed for me but my children serve to remind me just how wonderful the experience truly was. And although they now have cubbies and backpacks (glorified means in which to house their beloved school possessions), I doubt any will be as memorable or as significant as having a desk of one’s own.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live.
Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel