Long ago, in a kindergarten room far away, a good little girl sat at her table. She was thrilled to finally be in school, and eager to learn. The teacher passed papers to children. She read the instructions on the sheet to her students, “Color the cat red.”

The good little girl dutifully picked a red crayon from the table and went to work. Carefully, she stayed in the lines, covering every bit of the cat with red. Satisfied that she had made her best effort, she scanned the other crayons on the table, and selected a green one to use on the bow tied around the cat’s neck. Back to work she went, quietly and diligently.

The teacher collected the children’s papers.

“Well, now, here’s somebody who just can’t follow instructions”  The little girl sat still, secure in the knowledge that she had been good, and curious to see the bad student brought to justice.

The teacher was now holding a paper high above the class, and continuing to talk. The little girl couldn’t hear anything else. The offending paper belonged to her!

I no longer remember whether I tried to talk to my teacher, or if I carried the story of her injustice home.  I used to tell this story occasionally when I got older, as though it were funny. There I was, a good kid, trying, no, succeeding  in  following the directions on that paper. I colored the cat red, dammit. Who said anything about the bloody bow?

I don’t think it is so funny anymore. I tried so hard to be “good” when I was little. It was all I ever was praised for. To be publicly shamed (there’s that word again) for doing what I was told was more than my little mind could absorb. Certainly I wanted to follow instructions, so the problem must be that I couldn’t understand them.  And clearly, no good would come from taking incentive.

Can one minor childhood episode really have that much impact?  Who knows? But fifty-two years later, I still remember it.

I feel compelled to add that this was not the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I do not hold my (clearly sadistic, unqualified or both)  kindergarten teacher responsible for my disappointments in life.

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