pre-school, n. a school or nursery for preschool children; adj. of, pertaining to, or intended for a child between infancy and school age.

Mrs. Medvic was one of my pre-school teachers and an inveterate turd. I remember various things about her, like her big blue car that made a funny whining sound, her too-tight jeans, her permed hair, her cold blue eyes, the old-lady smell of her generously applied perfume. Mostly, I remember her as my reason for hating pre-school. She was the kind of woman who would become enraged with my inability to fall asleep during nap time, so I perfected the art of pretending to be asleep before I was five years old in order to escape her wrath. She would force me to eat fish sticks every Friday, claiming that I would learn to like them if I gave them a fair chance, as if I could somehow ignore my gag reflex and get over my hatred for the vile, limp rectangles which polluted my otherwise inoffensive paper plate. One Friday, “trying” the fish sticks made me vomit.  In front of all the other kids, she accused me of making myself puke just to spite her. Every Friday following that fateful one, she withheld the rest of my lunch until I tried the fish sticks. I stubbornly refused, as I did not wish to be humiliated by barfing my brains out at the lunch table. I was denied chocolate milk, a fruit cup, a granola bar, or anything more edible than the disgusting, slimy, undercooked, wretched fish sticks. I was always hungry on Friday afternoons, and I began to hate Mrs. Medvic. (Now, we have a word for this: “hangry.”)

She once punished me for my literal interpretation to the question, “Who is the line leader today?” I was standing in the front of the line, so I proudly replied that I was, in fact, the line leader. Unfortunately, some other nameless child had been designated to hold the coveted position for the day. I was doomed to skip recess for three days so that I could think about what I had done, though I hadn’t done anything. I wasn’t lying or being a smart-ass. If I was in front of the line, I was the line leader!  Instead of trying to relate with my misunderstanding of the question, evil Mrs. Medvic focused her reptilian eyes upon me and growled in a cruel, dark voice, “You will be punished,” as if having to spend every afternoon with her wasn’t punishment enough.

I never told my parents anything about this, as I felt that it was somehow my fault that I couldn’t eat fish sticks or remember that there was a secret list with the name of the day’s line leader. All I said was that I didn’t want to go to pre-school anymore, to which they replied, “It really isn’t that bad, is it?  You just hate the idea of going to pre-school. You get to play with other kids, right?  Don’t you like them?”  The answer was simple. No, I did not like them, especially since I was the kid who barfed at lunch and had to suffer their jeers every Friday. Even if I had liked any of them, Mrs. Medvic erased any joy that I may have found there. I resented my parents for sending me to such an awful place, and began to realize that grownups are jerks. Was it really possible that they didn’t see how I longed to stay home and play with my Legos, draw pictures, read, and create my own reality, where I was in charge of my stuffed-animal kingdom? Were they really going to force me, day after day, to attend that horrible place, fake naps, and go hungry on Fridays?

Yes, they were.

They had adult responsibilities that I couldn’t comprehend, like jobs. And it’s not like I told them about the fish sticks, anyway.