When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve been thinking about this one and realized that most of my favorite childhood memories rolled out of my travels in my little red wagon.
As a young girl, I really wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was Laura when my sister and I curved a large piece of cardboard from side to side creating the covered wagon that carried our lunch pails, quilts, notebooks and crayons out into the field across from our house. The Little House books were the first series that captured my heart and ignited my love of reading. I devoured them one right after the other. After that it was Ramona Quimby and Trixie Beldon and Laura was replaced, but not forgotten. My collection of Little House books was passed down to my own daughter, shared in my classroom for years, and is waiting patiently on a shelf for grandchildren someday.
My little red wagon and traveled down 21st Street to the candy counter for penny candy, to the school playground with marbles and matchbox cars, and was fastened to my brother’s bike with a jump rope for increased speed and adventure. No helmet either!
The real magic happened on the last day of first grade for me and my little red wagon. My teacher, Mrs. Hubbard, told me to come back to school with my wagon and she filled it to the spilling over point with all the extra papers that smelled of precious, but toxic, blue line mimeograph print. That summer between first and second grade was when I knew teaching would be my future.
TV tables and folding chairs took up residence in our garage to create the ultimate classroom open to the fresh air and sunshine of summer. My school had its own swimming pool out on the lawn. You know, one of those blue plastic type that is a foot deep. We didn’t care. What other school allowed you to attend in your bathing suit and go swimming at recess? I’m grateful my parents didn’t use the garage to park the car and let my school remain that summer. Neighbors came by for lessons, we explored the attic for dress up clothes to perform plays on the front porch, and used Mom’s kitchen to make refreshments and try to recipes. Yes! My mom actually allowed me to mix a package of Jello with a cup of sugar as a snack. It was my own invention of the sugar-filled Pixi-Stix some other guy got credit for. If you decide to mix up a batch, lime is the best.
My version of summer school cannot compare to today’s summer school. My school was outside, had no dress code or nutritional guidelines, the curriculum was driven by whatever floated or rolled by and was completely my own. And it all started with Mrs. Hubbard and my little red wagon.