Mustard and Ketchup
An Elementary Encounter
By Steve Carr
Decades removed from back-to-school sales and last-minute dashes for kid friendly scissors, school paste, and number two pencils, I still feel a wistful shiver when I spot the first school bus of the season.
I met my best friend on the first day of first grade: a momentous day all around. Neither of us knew anyone else in our class. We were country kids, not part of the community around Longfellow Elementary in Idaho Falls. The school bus dropped us off in front of the low-slung red brick building and we were shepherded inside to classroom number four, right next to the bathroom and the principal’s office.
Our teacher, Mrs. Reynolds, was round and happy and wore nylons that ended just above her knees. We knew this because when she bent over to drink from the first-grade-height water fountain the hem of her dress rose an inch or two above those nylons. That made us giggle.
She wrote her name in big letters on the chalkboard. Maybe ten percent of the class could read it. To the rest, those letters were hieroglyphics, as yet to be decoded. At our first recess, we two bus students found ourselves outside, near the door, hands in pockets, looking down at our shoes. After a time, I raised my head, looked John over, and I asked what the spot was on his blue T-shirt.