My kindergarten teacher was a kind, round woman with flushed cheeks and a spongy body that smelled like the flowers in my mother’s garden. I remember that she wore an apron over her clothing, no doubt to keep grubby little art project hands from soiling her polyester pants and tucked-in, color coordinated blouse. I wonder if my teacher didn’t actually smell of flowers, but rather my little brain thought she should match the rose fabric print. I was in elementary school before it was unacceptable for teachers to love their students and hug them hello and goodbye. And we did hug her. She met us each morning with a smile and led us in adventures of learning—macaroni art, story and nap time, and tracing hands for turkeys on thick, brown construction paper.
One day, my parents invited her to the house for dinner, and the oft-told family story is the stuff of legend. “Oh, let me tell you what Piper did in kindergarten!” Leaning close the day before she was to visit, I advised my teacher in confidence that she might not want to eat the salad, that my mother never washed produce from the garden. Then, taking a page from all the Saturday morning Bugs Bunny cartoons, I told her that we lived in a hole in the ground. I described an underground bunny burrow, ladder down, interconnected rooms and all. I don’t think she bought the notion that her student lived in a warren with her mother, father, and two siblings, but I can say that my teacher skipped the vegetables, starting with the salad.