Avaline is afraid to start kindergarten
It was May 2016. I had just turned five. My mom and I were sitting at our large glass table in our New York apartment drinking matcha tea.
“Kindergarten will be a change of scenery for you, and you’ll meet a lot of friends,” my mom said.
“Kindergarten?” I raised my eyebrows.
Kindergarten sounded to me like something cold and lonely. Not because I didn’t want to meet new friends, but because I didn’t really know what kindergarten was. I had always been around my mom or my grandparents for all my five years, and never went anywhere without them. Besides, I didn’t speak any English at all.
A few days later, my mom found a girl from our building who was going to be in the same school as me. She was my age and her name was Lily. We invited Lily and her mom to come over. I was very excited to meet Lily. I took out all my toys from the boxes and carefully laid them out in my room. As soon as the doorbell rang, I ran to the door and opened it. Lily was shyly standing behind her mother and smiling at me.
“Privet,” I said, trying to be as polite as possible. “Hello,” said Lily.
Oh! I thought to myself, I forgot that I don’t speak any English. I looked at my mom with confusion.
“Avaline, show Lily your room,” my mom said, helping me to feel more comfortable. I took Lily’s hand and we walked together to my room.
I had all my stuffed animals neatly seated next to each other on my bed, and the dolls took the chair spot. Board games were lying on the floor.
“Would you like to play a board game?” I asked. Lily was staring at me and smiling.
“Would you like to play with the dolls?” I continued.
But Lily was only smiling. She didn’t understand what I was saying. I really didn’t know what else to say, so I tried another approach. I started pointing my fingers to the stuffed animals and calling their names.
“Tasha.” I pointed at my black fluffy cat. “Lena.” I pointed at my teddy bear.
“Lucky!” Lily shrieked with excitement, grabbing my pink poodle plushie. She was trying to explain that she has the same one. And I understood her.
“Yes, Lucky,” I laughed.
For the rest of the hour, we just played with the dolls, dressing them up and pretending they were at the fashion show. Surprisingly, without understanding each other’s language, we had a good time together.
Forthe whole last week of August I thought only about the word “kindergarten.” The sooner the first day of school came, the more scary it sounded. And finally it came! I was very nervous. It turned out Lily was not in my class, which made me even more anxious. How am I going to talk to other kids? How am I going to understand them? Is my mom going to leave me there? What if she forgets to pick me up? What if she is going to leave me there forever? My head was full of doubts and fears.
As we came closer to the school, I was mesmerized by its tall red doors and huge lion statues. We entered; the ceilings were really far away from my head. At the end of the hall, I saw a group of kids who were going to be in my class. Everyone was dressed up and looked happy.
The teacher introduced herself to everyone, and it was time for parents to leave. And here that awful moment came! All those doubts and fears came back to me in triple size! I started sobbing and squeezing my mom’s hand. I couldn’t hear anything or anyone. My mom was trying to calm me down, saying that she’d pick me up soon. But nothing helped. I kept squeezing her hand harder and harder, and finally I bit my mom’s arm!
Everyone was trying to talk to me, but I cried harder and harder. I looked briefly at my mom, and she looked like she was about to cry too.
Suddenly, a great idea came to her mind. She decided to talk to the principal and see if she could stay with me at school. And the principal agreed. I was tremendously happy! A huge smile remained on my face till the end of the day. And so my mom ended up going with me to school for two whole weeks.
Every morning we had breakfast and headed to school together. My mom helped the teacher with preparations for the lessons and other errands. I followed my mom everywhere like a tail. She translated everything the teacher was saying to me. After two weeks, I became more comfortable at school; it didn’t look so scary anymore.
In October, a new girl joined our class. And guess what? She also didn’t speak any English. She was from Japan and only spoke Japanese. Her name was Samiko. We became friends. Because we had a great common thing together—we both didn’t speak English!
I am not alone anymore! I thought to myself. Samiko and I always took out a big geographical book with no words and pointed to our favorite characters and pictures. We drew together. We played together. We had lunch together. Sometimes I would see Lily at recess and we would all play catch.
In about three months, I was able to understand some basic English and communicate with my peers. I started feeling more confident.
I really enjoyed my time in kindergarten, even though it started in quite an unusual way. Every time I remember it, it puts a smile on my face.
For the next three years, I attended a different school and had to make new friends again. But in fourth grade I rejoined the same school that I had gone to for kindergarten. Most of the kids I knew were not there anymore. Samiko was not there either.
Right now I am in sixth grade and can fluently read, write, and speak in English. My friendship with Samiko will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always remember it. It taught me that you don’t really have to speak the same language to make a great friendship.