I am five years old and am returning from another day in First Grade. The bus stops outside my house. My legs are too short to use the steps properly so I jump from the bottom step to the sidewalk. My mom is outside waiting for me with Linda, my friend Johanna’s mom who lives next door. Running inside, I take off my coat and Buster Brown shoes and head straight for the television.
I sit down at the table and she pours me a big cup of Kool-aid Tropical punch and a glass of Tab for herself and I tell her about my day. Today was mostly good, we got to have Silent Reading in the morning, and the school lunch was hamburgers. I didn’t like when Carole and I were riding on the seesaw and she jumped off when I was all the way at the top. I got a bloody lip and had to go see the school nurse. My mom listens intently, wafting the smoke from her cigarette away from my face whenever it goes in my direction.
At 4PM it’s time for Sesame Street and for the next hour I’ll be enjoying learning more reading, some math, and even a little Spanish. Sometimes they sing songs to help me learn letters and numbers that I already know. I hear my mom singing from the kitchen when her favourites come on.
Next up is Mister Rogers Neighbourhood. This man arrives in my house at least two hours before my own father arrives home from work as a US Army recruiter. Mister Rogers is always really happy to see me and always tells me he’s proud of me.
When The Electric Company comes on at 5:30, my mom comes in to the room with a piece of folded orange construction paper. On it, written in crayon, there are big block letters:
French Fries or Tater Tots
Tartar Sauce OR Ketchup
Green Beans or Corn
Kool-Aid or Water
I read the menu she’s made aloud to her, proud at how easy it felt. Then I tell her my dinner choices. She goes back into the kitchen to make dinner. Thirty minutes later she’s back in the living room and places a large cutting board across the arms of my chair and sets my plate down on it just in time to watch Zoom.
I finish my dinner just as my dad walks in the door.