WHAT A HAM!

P.S. 78.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the abbreviation, P.S. stands for ‘Public School’, a tax-supported US school providing free education. That’s where I attended kindergarten. I was there for only one year but some things about that year I will never forget. 

My mother would walk me to the red brick building every morning and greet me every afternoon when school was over. Mom was the no nonsense type and it took us less than 15 minutes to walk to school. It wasn’t much fun during the cold or nasty days but then Mom got her new Ford Fairlane 500 and going to school got a whole lot better.

Sometimes we’d stop at the Post Arrow – a mini amusement park/restaurant right on the corner that catered to regular folk by offering simple items such as hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and ice cream. I’d get ice cream and go on a couple of rides; it was a magical place. My family always ate our meals at home but once in a while Dad would get a craving for a hot pastrami sandwich on rye bread and we’d zip up to the Post Arrow.

Being just a small kid, a place like P.S. 78 could be intimidating with so many other older and bigger kids but after a while, just like everything else, I got used to it. My classroom was on the first floor and I can still picture it. Low bookcases just tall enough for a bunch of munchkins hugged the walls all around the room. Short round tables which seated 4-6 kids were strewn about and there was a giant chalk board on the right side of the brightly painted room. Old metal casement windows took up one full wall while the other walls were covered with drawings, the alphabet and numbers. But the pièce de resistance was a vintage upright piano diagonally opposite the classroom doorway positioned catty-corner as opposed to being flush up against a wall. Today we would say the room had a very feng shui feel about it and the angled look of the piano was extremely appealing. Back then we just thought it was a happy room to be in.

We kids loved that classroom and felt comfortable from the very first day. Our teacher’s name was Mrs. Merchant; to this day I have no idea what her first name was. Mrs. Merchant was tiny in both height and weight; she always wore dresses with sweaters, had short wavy salt and pepper hair and wore glasses. It was impossible to tell her age; in the eyes of a small child she could have been anywhere between 35 and 65. She was a very sweet, patient woman who clearly enjoyed teaching kindergarten. She would play the piano during song time and she’d often read a book and play the piano simultaneously, making the stories pop to life. We’d all sit on the floor near the piano, our eyes glued to Mrs. Merchant as she dramatically read to us while she played.

There were so many wonderful times in kindergarten. Mrs. Merchant focused a lot on music and singing; I’m sure that was where my love of music first began. We would have musical parades around the classroom every day, each child playing a different instrument, and once each week one of the kids would perform for the class.

I remember every detail about one of my performances – my song, my little dance and most of all my costume. I was a little pig. 🐷

My mother, ever the creative seamstress, bought a child’s pair of pink one-piece Dr. Denton footed pajamas with a rear flap for “easy potty time” (if you don’t remember Dr. Denton pjs, you’re really missing out on something!). Mom brought home some pink felt from the shop where she worked and used it to make little pig ears and a curlicue tail. She covered one of my plastic headbands with felt and attached the ears to it. My piggie nose was made from stiffly starched fabric covered with felt; Mom cut two little holes on each side for the string which she tied around the back of my head keeping my piggie nose in place like a mask. For the tail she curled a length of a wire clothes hanger, covered it with felt and sewed it to the little rear end flap on my pjs. I was told I looked absolutely adorable but sadly, no photos were taken of that momentous occasion – at least none that I’m aware of.

I was always a “ham” when it came to performing and never shied away from the opportunity to entertain. Even as an adult at our fabulous choir Mardi Gras parties I would be front and center serenading everyone with one standard after the other. Gimme a mike and I’ll sing you a song! 

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to record and upload a few of my stories for a prominent UK broadcasting corporation. I even had the chance to sing during one segment but I’m pretty sure that didn’t make the headlines. Let’s check the News. Nope, nothing there.

My dream was to be a professional singer; I think I’d look pretty good sprawled on a piano a la Michelle Pfeiffer! Instead, here I am happily entertaining you with my stories. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll surprise you with a song.

Once a ham, always a ham! Stay tuned. 🎤

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