I’d officially moved to the Big Kid’s Side of the campus. La Pluma School had an invisible barrier, a Ye-Shall-Not-Pass line separating K-through-2nd (the Little Kids Side) and 3rd-through-6th (the Big Kids Side). When we were second-graders, we’d sometimes test the line by putting our foot over to see if we were instantly vaporized, or worse, “pounded” by a Big Kid.
Mostly, we just got menacing looks, but those were enough to keep us in our ghetto–which had all the fun stuff anyway: Monkey Bars, Jungle Gyms, and massive Swing Sets that could launch you into orbit if you pumped hard enough! (Confession: My buddies Jeff and Rory and I would often sneak over there after school and devolve back into Little Kids. After all, nothing will ever beat “bailing out” of a super-high swing!)
But being a Big Kid meant abandoning “Play” in favor of “Sports” (which, confusingly, was something you “played”). We now did Four Square, Tetherball, Basketball, and Kickball (aka soccer-baseball or football rounder). Kickball was the only sport I ever really loved and excelled at—until they replaced it with softball and finally baseball, both of which I suckcelled at (I had virtually no hand-eye coordination). Not fair! I could have been a World Kickball Cup champion!
But, alas, it was not meant to be.
So instead, I became The Clever Kid, the one whose artwork was perpetually praised by Mrs. Gibbons. Which should have made me a loathsome teacher’s pet. Except for one thing: I’d also developed a flair for storytelling, probably as a result of being a ravenous reader. Plus, I could do Funny Voices. But the real hook was that Mrs. Gibbons also liked my storytelling. And so, whenever the class behaved well during Quiet Time, she would reward them by having me tell a story! I was particularly good at doing Uncle Remus characters (anathema nowadays). Heck, I was up there with Oreos and milk!
Looking back, it seems somewhere between eight and nine-years-old my personality began to gel into the Mesozoic version of what I’d eventually become. Yes, the proverbial “roar of the greasepaint and smell of the crowd” got to me. A little too much, actually—I later learned to live for something more significant. But for a time, the only thing I loved more than becoming a Big Kid, was becoming…
The Clever Kid.