Hudson Alexander’s Around The Block

Updated

The start of school this year has put me in a predicament once again — one that I haven’t had to deal with in many years. And my predicament is this: how do you tell a child, and especially one so special in your life, something that’s really…shall we say…a little less than truthful?

Here’s my point…just the other day, my pretty little 5-year-old granddaughter came crawling up in my lap. After giving me a big hug, she looked up at me with those big blue eyes, and said, “Pap, I guess you know I start to kindergarten tomorrow. Do you think I’ll like it?”

Now why did she have to go and ask her Pap a question like that? It didn’t take but a split second for my mind to go racing back to the fall 1959 — to the very day when I was coerced into crossing that little wooden bridge at Inge Smith’s kindergarten over on Battle Avenue. I recalled what a pain it had been to leave my little brother back at home. He got to see what was going on with Mr. Moose and Mr. Green-Jeans on the Captain Kangaroo TV show. All I got was a bum deal: I was thrown headlong into a new situation, with a bunch of new kids, and I had to learn a whole bunch of new stuff. If it hadn’t been for the kindly assistance from those two saintly ladies who helped out there, Mrs. Eloise North and Mrs. Maxie Lawrence, I don’t think I’d have ever even survived that first day of kindergarten!

“So Pap, do you think I’ll like school,” she asked again, this time interrupting my memories on the subject that stretched back some 47 years ago.

I drew a deep breath, let out a long sigh, and then thought about it again, for just a brief time.

“Why…yes, baby, I think you’ll love kindergarten,” I said, with a straight face that might’ve won the national poker tournament. “This is an exciting time in your life. And I’ll just bet you’ll be the prettiest little girl in the whole class, too.”

Then, I thought…since I’ve already started down this dark road, I might as well lay it all out there…hook, line, and sinker.

“You know, Taylor, Pap sure wishes he could swap places with you tomorrow. Pap would love it if you’d go to work in his place tomorrow, while he got to have all the fun and go meet all those new little friends at kindergarten. That would be a good deal for Pap!”

She looked up, sporting that little innocent smile…you know, the kind that radiated a sense of newfound courage, mixed in with some sheer determination not to let her Pap pull one over on her. Now…I should have been satisfied with such a performance. But I wasn’t. The last time I’d told one that big was way back there… in fall 1982, when my oldest son, Jason, was about to start kindergarten at Franklin Elementary School. Or maybe it was in fall 1986, when my youngest son, Little Hut, was about to enter kindergarten at Liberty Elementary School.

Either way, I thought those days were long gone…now I’m in that familiar predicament again — and this time it’s with the grandchildren! I’ve got three more coming up behind little Taylor.

A couple of days later, I was still moping around the house, still pondering this deep dilemma, when I stumbled across…so help me…a newspaper column that my grandfather, T.H. Alexander, had written on this very subject back in the fall of 1927. You have to understand here that my grandfather died 13 years before I was born. But, somehow, I just knew he’d penned this column, knowing I’d find it one day. He had these interesting remarks in his column, which was called “I Reckon So,” and published in The Nashville Tennessean and other southern papers:

“Now that the kids are going back to school, I notice almost all the Southern editors are writing editorials on school days and calling them the happiest days of life. Me..myself..personal, I don’t agree…but schools have just returned and my own boy with honest grimaces and candid distaste has resumed his schooling.”

“Old timer,” I said to him only yesterday, “this is the happiest time of your life. The cares and worries of the great world need not bother you. You need not bother, like your dad, on what to write today to bring beans and bacon tomorrow. Yes, these are the days.”

“But deep down in my heart I know I have lied to him! I am simply helping perpetuate the Great American Tradition.”

So…that’s what it is! The Great American Tradition. I never thought about it in quite that light, but…hey…I can live with that. Thanks, Granddaddy!

© 2006 Williamson Herald