No More Tomato Juice
by Victoria (Woskoff) Bestock
My mother always said that I didn’t really dislike tomato juice. She said it was just that the other kids at my preschool didn’t like it, so I wouldn’t drink it either. The preschool teacher had told her about the riot when everyone in the 3-year-old class banged their glasses on the table shouting, “No more tomato juice! No more tomato juice.” She thought I was a follower and didn’t have the gumption to drink it if no one else did.
She didn’t know that I was the one who started the riot. I really hated tomato juice.
Aside from the tomato juice, I loved pre-school at the Progressive School. Sometimes the teacher would take me up on the roof, which is where the playground was, and we’d wait for my mom to emerge on the elevated train platform a block away. From the roof, we were at the same elevation as the station and the teacher would lift me up and I would wave and mom would wave. But I didn’t miss her. School was too much fun. The teachers were nice. There were lots of kids to play with and lots of toys.
Instead of having naptime in my crib, which I did at home, we had mattresses on the floor. I really liked it when I got to be one of the two kids whose mattresses were set up on the platform at the top of the slide. We’d sleep or else we’d giggle and talk. At the end of naptime, we got to slide down the slide into the playroom. I loved that.
We did puzzles and played games and sang songs, and made things out of plasticine clay that came in different colors. We played make believe games, but I didn’t like playing house, so I’d do something else if that was the make-believe game of the day. We painted with water colors. There was always something wonderful to do.
Now and then the kids would gang up on somebody. They’d chant, “Nobody play with Dana” in a sing song voice and that Dana would be shunned for the day. Usually the kid being shunned cried a lot. They only did it to me once. I went up on the roof to the playground and played by myself. One of the teachers came up to make sure I was safe, and we talked. I had the teacher all to myself! That was great. The shunning hadn’t had the effect on me that it was supposed to, and no one tried it again with me. And when they said, “Nobody play with Karen,” I played with her anyway because we were friends.
Once my mother had pains in her ankles and since my father was between jobs, he took me to school. Instead of walking, he pulled me in my red wagon. I loved being with Dad. I loved riding in the wagon. I wanted Dad to take me to school every day. But he couldn’t. I demanded that my mother pull me in the wagon, and she refused. Too much work. I was very angry at her.
I loved school so much that one Sunday when there wasn’t much to do at home I said I wanted to go to school now. My mother said, “Its not a school day, you have to wait until Monday” but at three I didn’t know one day from the next. I didn’t believe her. She always made up reasons why I couldn’t have what I wanted and most weren’t true. She was just being mean because she didn’t like walking up the hill. I pestered her and pestered her until she gave in and walked me to the school to show me that no one was there.
When I started Kindergarten at age five my mother walked me to school to show me how I was to do it, since I'd be walking by myself after the first day-- she had to go to work. Most of the children hadn’t been to pre-school and this was the first time they were being left somewhere without their mothers. Many were crying, tugging on skirts, trying to keep their mothers with them. My mother stood in the doorway, watching as I raced off happily to play with the blocks. Even though the school was huge, with 36 per class and 12 or 13 classes in each grade, I felt perfectly at home in kindergarten from that very first day. There were more toys than I had at home. Recess was in a huge playground instead of on the roof. The teacher Mrs Lutz was very gentle and kind and played the piano. And best of all, there was no tomato juice.