As a young child I attended preschool. Unlike many of my fellow toddlers, I quite enjoyed it. I spent my days coloring purple stick figure horses, watching Charlie the class turtle swim happily in his aquarium, and naming every single stuffed animal after a My Little Pony character. All was well in my pre-k world until the day I still think of in my head as “Beanie Weenie Day.”
On most days my mom sent me off to school with a packed lunch consisting of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Swiss Rolls, two of my favorite foods. For some reason, though, on this particular day I was eating a school lunch. The tray placed in front of me was laden with some strange concoction: Beanie Weenies. I watched as my classmates devoured their food, confused as to how they could be enjoying what looked suspiciously like the canned food we fed our German Shepherd.
Not a picky eater but certainly not an adventurous one, I took one tiny taste of my beanie weenies and then declared them inedible. “Fine,” my teacher said. “You don’t have to eat it. But then you won’t get to have one of the cupcakes Paul’s mom brought in for his birthday.”
Now, anyone who know me knows that cupcakes are my favorite food in the whole entire world. My love for them borders on obsessive. So denying me a cupcake was a punishment akin to water boarding or bamboo shoots to the fingernails. I was upset, but I also really didn’t want to eat the beanie weenies. I could be stubborn like that. I spent the rest of lunch wrestling with the kind of internal dilemma only a four year old could experience. I even tried pawning my food off to those sitting near me, but had no takers.
Finally at the end of lunch I managed to scarf down a several bites, but my teacher was apparently in a rather vindictive mood and denied me cupcakes on the grounds of being difficult and uncooperative. I spent recess moping over the fact that I had forced myself to eat the human equivalent of dog food and still didn’t get a cupcake. From my sulking place at the top of the slide I saw another classmate (whose name I honestly don’t recall, so let’s call him Dave) attempting to scale the chain link fence that surrounded the playground. Climbing on the fence was against the rules, and I didn’t want Dave to get in trouble. So I made my way over to him and politely suggested he get down. Dave refused, citing some strange desire to jump from the top of the fence as the reason for his rule breaking.
“You have to get down! You’ll get in trouble!” I reminded him. He did not listen to me and continued to climb higher. “Get down!” I called up to him, reaching up to tug on his shirt sleeve. This seemingly inconsequential action apparently caused Dave to slip. Though I’m sure he couldn’t have fallen more than a foot or so, in my young mind it was the equivalent of falling off the Empire State Building. Dave landed with a thud on the ground, and to my relief he seemed unharmed. He just shot me a glare for disrupting his fence scaling and stalked off in a huff. Figuring boys were just some weird foreign creature never to be understood, I shrugged it off and went to play with my friends, my lack of cupcake mostly forgotten.
Just a few minutes later though, I was called over to table where the teachers sat during recess. “Megan,” one of them said. “Dave says that you pinched him. Did you?” “No! He was trying to climb the fence and I told him to get down,” I tried to explain. “She’s lying! She pinched me and made me fall!” Dave was working up some pretty impressive fake tears. It’s no wonder the teachers believed him. The kid was a drama queen of the first order, but he had fake crying down to an art. It was decided that as punishment for pinching Dave and making him fall (the fact that Dave had been breaking the rules was mostly ignored) I would have to sit in time out for the rest of recess and I would not be allowed to feed Charlie the turtle his afternoon meal. Feeding Charlie was something of a privilege, and I prided myself on being the best turtle feeder in class. I was outraged at the injustice of it all. First beanie weenies, then no cupcake, time out, and not getting to feed Charlie? Preschool was no longer a happy place for me.
Not unlike Dave I could be
a touch dramatic, and so it was during my time out that I began to plot my big escape…but that’s a story for another day.