Forgiveness and Scrambled Eggs

Childhood... full of uncomfortable, awkward moments.

Childhood… full of uncomfortable, awkward moments.

Miles run Wednesday: 10

Near-maimings by a golf cart while on 10-mile run: 1

Miles to be run today: 4.5

I had a great childhood.

This is not a popular thing to say if publishers are, say, wanting to publish a memoir about someone’s years addicted to heroin or how someone’s parents drove them out into a field to be raised by wild dogs.

When I hear my peers talking about whether kids benefit from staying at home or being in daycare, I can speak about both: I had a stay-at-home mom for a while, a part-time stay-at-home mom, went to daycare for a few years and spent time as a latchkey kid. All pretty good, all things considered.

During the daycare years, I spent time at four different daycares; five if you count the hippy-dippy one I enjoyed for one week while we were living in an apartment just after a big move.

There is enough material for several posts about My Time in Daycare. For today, let me tell you all about the week-long, hippy-dippy one.

We had just moved to Atlanta, and we were living in some kind of new job-subsidized apartment until our house was ready. The apartment seemed cool to me, but my mom said that roaches the size of Rottweilers came out at night after my sister and I were already asleep.

While my mom and dad were working, or whatever they did during the day, my sister and I went to this daycare inside a large house in Buckhead.

There were lots of old-growth trees shading the house, and the lighting inside left a lot to be desired.

The kitchen took up the entire center of the house: a large, open, galley-style kitchen staffed with good-natured counselors who had big dreams of teaching 9-year-olds to cook long before the Food Network was even a gleam in a hungry executive’s eye. We got to help cook scrambled eggs and toast, and we were treated like short adults.

The outside area of the house was blessedly shady, unlike most daycare playgrounds of the era. July in Atlanta is not known for being cool. There was a chain-link fence around the small perimeter and swings and climbing equipment. The ground throughout was reminiscent of the Dust Bowl.

As a rising fourth-grader, I was one of the big kids, and a few of the older kids made friends with me right away. We hung out near the playground equipment, but we were too old and jaded to actually climb on it.

We also went on roller-skating field trips and took a turn at bowling.

Everyone was perfectly nice to me.

But I had a secret weakness. One that made my mom shake her head in agony.

I forgot to ask people their names.

Then, months later, it was too late to ask. It was horribly embarrassing, and every time, I would coach myself: remember to ask their names. But in this peaceful, commune-style setting, the scrambled eggs had thrown me off my game.

And one tall kid who had been kind to me… well, I wasn’t sure if it was even a boy or a girl. He/she had short hair, either a Dorothy Hamill cut or a boy bowl cut. Which was it? It tortured me in bed at night while the roaches were having their way with my mom and dad.

You would think that hearing the other kids call his/her name on the playground would be a good clue. But here was the problem:

It was either Jane or Jame(s). Which actually sound incredibly similar in kid parlance.

I had two more days of daycare before we moved out to The Burbs. It was time to find out, once and for all.

We were standing out on the cement patio, the dusty red clay swirling around us. Kelly, a girl who was clearly a girl and who I had trusted to be my friend for lo, these three days, was right there. And Jane/James was turned away.

So I leaned over and whispered to Kelly, “Is the name Jane or James?”

Kelly leaned back and looked me over, then grinned.

“Jane! Jane! Anne thinks you’re a boy!”

Awkward.

Jane turned around, and I studied her face as she studied mine.

I felt sorry for her, that she would be stuck here with Fair Weather Friend Kelly, who obviously didn’t have Girl Jane’s best interests at heart.

Poor Jane, embarrassed by the newcomer (me), unprotected by her so-called friend, and still, as far as I could tell, devoid of any gender identity.

We eyed each other carefully. “You thought I was a boy?” she said.

“No!” I choked out. “I couldn’t understand what people were calling you. Some girls have boy names; I don’t know!”

Jane turned out to be a forgiving sort. “Yeah, it’s Jane. Now let’s go make some lunch.”

I breathed out.

And I made a pact with myself to learn the names of every kid at my new daycare, a place unlikely to serve up forgiveness along with scrambled eggs.

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39 thoughts on “Forgiveness and Scrambled Eggs

  1. Great post, Anne. One of my great failings is either not getting a name or, on those rare occasions when I do get it, I promptly forget it. It is embarrassing. I even went to a class once, to learn how to remember people’s names. It didn’t help much. Oh well. 😐

    • annewoodman says:

      I do great sometimes and at other times, I fail miserably. I often find, as an adult, that I pay less attention and don’t worry as much about committing it to memory if I think I’ll never need it again. The problem? I invariably need to know it again. ; )

  2. what a great story–and even in adulthood I find myself in that same trouble

  3. Melissa says:

    I’m terrible with names and what’s makes it even worse is that the Hubs is too. We devised a system that if someone comes up and says for instance “Hi Melissa.” and I can’t remember the name, I nudge the hubs and he jokingly says that I’m being rude and introduces himself…this way we both get the name, I apologize for being rude and everyone is happy. It’s never backfired….it probably will now.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    At least you had youth on your side. That happens to me to this day, and after encountering someone (e.g., another school parent) after so many months, you can’t really stop and ask their name then. Really embarrassing!

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    I am terrible with names, especially in social settings. I’ve tried the various techniques like repeating it or coming up with a mnemonic device for it, but to no avail. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has trouble with this. 🙂

  6. Bernie Brown says:

    Loved the blog! Now, Anne, I’m just checking. We have known each other for about three years; even though I have a boy’s name, you do know that I’m a girl, don’t you?

    • annewoodman says:

      Well, your hair IS short, Bernie. ; ) Of course, so is mine. I’ll try to remind myself of your female status… one big clue is your great shoes. Bernie, a girl. Bernie, a girl. I’m working on it. ; )

  7. Daryl says:

    Mnemonic devices are the key. “AN attractive fun girl” – AN, yes that’s it, my wife’s name is AN (ANNE).

  8. happyzinny says:

    I think you can ask their name again the second time you see them, but after that, you need to find it out by covert means!

  9. I’m terrible with names! It’s not even that I forget (although I do forget!), it’s more that I don’t even listen when I’m being told it! Funnily enough, last year when I did a bit of stand-up comedy, I did a whole bit about how embarrassing it is if you’re talking with something who remembers your name, so you don’t want to admit that you can’t remember theirs and then you’re put in a situation of having to introduce them to someone.

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I bet you’re a hilarious stand-up comedian, Vanessa. That takes courage. I remember my college boyfriend (an actor and total ham) tried that, and it was daunting, even for him.

  10. robincoyle says:

    I have a friend and you can mention the name of your great-aunt twice-removed dog’s third puppy out of eight litters, and six years later, she (my friend) will say, “Oh yes, Bosco was such a good dog.” Some people have a talent for such things. I work on remembering what I had for breakfast.

  11. desertrose7 says:

    Love the details of other peoples childhood. 🙂 I’m so nosy, lol!
    I’m STILL awful with names! Shocking in fact.

  12. Ravena Guron says:

    What a great story! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that mixed up with names (poor Jane/James!) but a lot of people look the same to me, so I have to be careful when I first meet them. (And the day I meet identical twins… *shudder.*)

    Your daycare place sounds like it was great! My memories of being younger are really iffy, but I do remember an amazing nursery where the carer was either called Jam or Jan (but it didn’t matter because I was three and could call her Jam even if that wasn’t her name :D)

  13. I seldom remember men’s names but almost always remember women’s names – a carryover from when I was single and hopeful, I suppose.

  14. 4amWriter says:

    Working at an elementary school for lunch/recess means I have to deal with 450 children over a span of 2 hours. If I worked there every day, I could probably learn their names. However, I only work a few days a week, and I can only remember some of the names here and there. It would be really handy to know their names when I have to, say, scream at them before they run into the road after a ball. Yep. Knowing names would be handy in instances like that.

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I volunteered in our school media center for about 5 or 6 years… you had to know their names to check out the books. Some of the new kindergartners didn’t know their last names!!!! So cute. But so difficult. ; )

  15. AmyMak says:

    It’s so funny to think about our anxieties as children – this is a story I can totally relate to! Hippy Dippy Daycare…has a nice ring to it 🙂

  16. I, too, am dreadful with names. In my case, however, I ask for the name and then, in a twinkling, forget what the person told me. I think that’s probably more embarrassing than not asking for the name at all.

    That said, I never had a problem with identifying a person’s gender…

  17. He he! This is a wonderful episode. I love the too jaded to use the play equipment. As for the name and face thing – you couldn’t make this stuff up. I don’t think you need to have a crazy life for memoir – just to be great and telling the one you did have.

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