I don't know when on the timeline of childhood development, little boys and girls first experience their strong feelings of love for one another. But after working with school children as a classroom teacher for 38 years, observing little people from 6 to 11 years, and observing their behavior in unstructured situations expressing a variety of childhood affection, I might conclude that early grade children unabashedly display strong affection for each other.
I don't know when on the timeline of childhood development, little boys and girls first experience their strong feelings of love for one another. But after working with school children as a classroom teacher for 38 years, observing little people from 6 to 11 years, and observing their behavior in unstructured situations expressing a variety of childhood affection, I might conclude that early grade children unabashedly display strong affection for each other. As an innocent bystander, it is beautiful to see these feelings expressed. The many acts of kindness and affection expressed, especially by adoring little girls for unsuspecting little guys, was most heartwarming.
I was taken back many years to my early education days, as I had just such a wonderful experience. When my twin brother and I started school in the grade school in my home town, we were acquainted with many of our future classmates from the Sunday school class at the Bethany Church where we started Sunday school at age 6. So when Mom and Dad walked with us to that big red brick school, we were looking forward to meeting those little friends in the first grade. When we reached the school, my Mom had a lot of tears. She and my Father were taking their youngest little twin boys to start that long journey in school. We met our first-grade teacher, Miss Bess Henley; Mom and Dad introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Groves. My father was a large town policeman and my Mom was a short little lady, and they both left us at the first- and second-grade door, with tears running down their cheeks!
Miss Henley welcomed us and promptly showed us our desks. I knew all of my classmates with the exception of a pretty little girl with long blonde hair. When we were all seated, Miss Henley went to the blackboard and neatly printed her name. She then asked us to come to the board to print our names if we could print them. When it was the new little girl's turn she walked up to the board and wrote in beautiful cursive form, "Mary Lou Holgate." We were all wowed because she could write her name (not print it), and she was dressed in a beautiful blue and white dress with butterflies on it. After we were all properly introduced to each other by standing and saying our names, we were allowed to greet our neighbors and tell each other something about ourselves. Mary Lou told us that her Daddy was the new superintendent; we were all impressed.
Soon it was recess time, and we went out to the playground. Miss Henley got us started in red rover, and we were soon learning our classmates by name. When Mary Lou called my name, I was really excited to have her remember my name. It didn't take long for us to get acquainted, and when we went back into the school, I was happy to know that this girl sat in front of me. At the noon recess, the boys all wanted to play ball, and the girls wanted to jump rope. But Mary Lou wanted to play ball with us, and soon our teams were made up of both boys and girls. Everyone wanted to be on Mary Lou's team. She soon showed us that not only was she a pretty little girl, but she was a very good ball player.
When we went back into our room, Miss Henley let us choose a partner to practice writing the alphabet and help each other if there were letters that we had trouble writing. Mary Lou asked me to be her study buddy. Making letters became very easy with Mary Lou as my partner. Soon we became very good buddies, and we found many excuses to work with each other.
One day I was especially brave, and I decided to write a little love note. It was very simple, but it took a lot of courage to write, "I LOVE YOU." I folded the little note and got up to go sharpen my pencil and drop the note on her desk. Miss Henley saw the note fall to the floor. "Leslie, would you pick up the note and read it to the class." I picked it up, I felt my face turn red and hot. I quickly read the note and sat down. "Now, Leslie, will you take the note upstairs and give it to Mr. Holgate. Now my older brothers had painted a very scary picture of the superintendent's office. They made it sound like it was a torture chamber if you were ever sent up there for discipline by a teacher who didn't want to handle the punishment for whatever the infraction. So when Miss Henley sent me to the office to show Superintendent Holgate "THE LOVE NOTE," I was shivering in my timbers; I was scared. So I slowly walked up the stairs to see Mr. Holgate. When I opened the door to his office, I was greeted with a very pleasant welcome.
"Hello Leslie, what can I do for you today?"
"Well sir, Miss Henley sent me up to show you this note which I gave to Mary Lou."
I handed him the note, and he smiled.
"Well Leslie, Mary Lou is my daughter, and I love her very much also."
He handed the note back to me and said, "It is nice to meet you." I left his office feeling like I was 10 feet tall and skipped down the hall to my room. When I entered the door, all of the boys in my class wondered why I was so happy. I told them that Mr. Holgate was a nice man, and he was amused at my note.
Soon it was time to start practicing singing Christmas carols. We discovered Mary Lou had a beautiful singing voice. Since my twin brother and I loved to sing duets in church, it seemed pretty natural that Mary Lou and I could sing carols together. When our music teacher asked us to sing "Silent Night" for the school program, I was in seventh heaven, I could sing a duet with Mary Lou.
The school year flew by until it was February. Our class got a large cardboard box to decorate for a valentine box. I didn't know much about Valentine's Day, but when Miss Henley told us we could make little construction paper hearts to give to our friends, I made a bunch to give to — you guessed it — Mary Lou. Valentine's Day would soon be here, and I didn't have any money to buy valentines for my classmates. My friends told me the man who operated the garden seed store was paying 10 cents a pound for seeds from lilac bushes. My twin brother asked Mom if we could go around to the neighbors to gather lilac seeds. She said she thought that was a good project for us to earn some money to buy valentines. So we went all over with our little radio flyer coaster wagon, filling a large burlap bag with the seeds. In no time, we had the bag filled and we took it to Mr. Preheim at the seed store.
Leslie Groves is a McPherson resident.