Happy New Year!
I found a candle yesterday that smelled like my kindergarten teacher Miss Ingerman (and her deliciousness remained the same even after she betrayed us all and married, becoming Mrs. Fedge.) A combination of daisies and citrus - that’s it. You cannot tell me that God does not exist when a random whiff of a fragranced candle can transport you 36 years into the past with one inhale. So I am standing in Home Goods breathing in this candle and the flood of memories just swirl - Miss Ingerman’s hair. The spinning jetty of death. Homemade butter in baby food jars.
It was really like a bad shampoo commercial from the 80‘s. Everyday after we came in from recess, I would wait for Miss Ingerman to flip her head upside down and brush her luxurious waves. Mesmerized, I was taken by the way she tossed her fluffy hair from side to side. She was beauty in slow-motion... an angel in a gossamer yellow dress.
There was a door that connected our classroom to the playground outside - at least that’s what I remember. It was an old-timey playground with real swings, a jungle gym with monkey bars, and one of those self-propelled, merry-go-rounds that were later banned from every playground in America because a child became trapped underneath and lost both her legs or her head...I can’t quite remember the details but it was true. Fact is, the school banned the spinning jetty as I referred to it, the coolest piece of playground equipment ever, because someone somewhere was hurt badly enough. For at least that year of kindergarten and part of 1st grade, I would hold so tight to the rails of that contraption that my palms would reek of sweaty metal, run until the dirt beneath my shoes started to smoke, and then jump onto that spinning death saucer as fast as a could.
Near Thanksgiving, someone’s grandmother came to our school in her hand-knitted orange and brown cardigan with plastic turkey buttons down the front, and gave us each a baby food jar full of cream. I can’t recall if we added anything to the cream but all I know is that we shook those jars until butter formed. One cracker we were each given and allowed to dip into our own butter. “Fresh sweet cream” was how it made me feel.
Miss Ingerman made me love school, kind people, soft hair, and good morning smiles. The tub of Elmer’s glue with the big stick in it, round-nosed safety scissors, and corrugated, rick-rack bulletin board trim were symbols of a new year of possibilities, risk-taking, learning, and growing. The “New Year” was never January 1st. It was back-to-school September with Indian summer days and a new Snoopy notepad. Maybe that’s why “You’ve Got Mail” is one of my all-time favorite movies. When Meg Ryan, independent bookshop owner, celebrates the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, she’s speaking to my soul.
To all those students and teachers who continue the grand revelling of the real “New Year,” thank you. Now bring forth the harvest with its pumpkins, mums, rulers, and paper clips! Wishing you the happiest new year and new beginnings!