Today I got off of work early and took a detour that took me past this place and immediately I was overcome with emotion. Idk if y'all know this but I'm a big ol' sensitive softie LOL. I stay on my MJB and Deborah Cox...reminiscing while being sentimental. I spent ages 5-11.75 in this jawn. McKinley Elementary was the basis of the beginnings of my obsession with literature. I was already reading before I stepped foot in this jawn, but my love of it was cemented within these walls. Class library trips were the dopest as I got to pick out books written by my faves and get lost in them. The Star Reader program was my jam...and I beasted it every year. I also got one of very few spankings in my childhood behind finessing the program one year.
Quick Baby Nic story time...so the Star Reader program was a book report driven initiative in which we wrote reports based on books we'd read and whoever read the most at the end of the year got to go to the BookIt! pizza party and get a pass to Six Flags. The idea, however, was that you were reading as you were writing the reports, right? Well I was always reading. I lived half a block from the public library and spent hours in there weekly. So being the ingenuitive baby nerd that I was, I figured that as long as I'd read the books I could write the reports and turn them in. One day my daddy saw me at the kitchen table, churning out Star Reader report after Star Reader report. He asked if I'd read all of those books that evening.
I replied, "No, daddy! I read these books a while ago."
"So you're lying to the people with your book reports?"
"No! I have read all of these books."
"But you were supposed to be reading them during the duration of the program, right? That is the point of it all."
*sassily* "The point is to read." [Bruh...clearly I was punch drunk off power!]
The conversation ended shortly thereafter and me and my bottom soon learned the difference between an outright lie and lie of omission. My daddy and I laugh about this situation to this day because he always says he was impressed by my thought process, but knew that allowing me to continue would make me believe that it was okay to cut corners and finesse my way through tasks at school. He wanted me to understand why what I was doing was wrong and that wrongdoing at consequences. Baby Nic just wanted to be the star pupil and go to the pizza party and wasn't tryna hear all that noise LOL!
McKinley is also where I got my first doses of seeing black women in professional capacity who were, in my young eyes, giants and paragons of model behavior. I always looked up to my mama, aunts and grandmas, but Mrs. Humphrey (2nd grade), Mrs. Davis (5th grade), Mrs. Rivers (6th grade) and Mrs. Nichols (principal) were idols of mine as well. I remember every morning of 2nd grade the entire class said the pledge of Allegiance and then sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at Mrs. Humphrey's insistence. I remember the cantankerous and motivational speeches from Mrs. Davis in 5th grade when folks were cutting the fool. I remember the effortless glamour and maternalistic care of Mrs. Rivers in 6th. Mrs. Nichols was replaced early in my elementary tenure because she had a reputation for being too stern. I only remember a larger than life figure with a no nonsense demeanor, but an obvious love for the students in her care daily. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mr. Pridgeon, our gym teacher, whose daughter I idolized when we were shorties. She was a dancer and always seemed to move with grace. We were only a few years apart, but I remember him inviting us to her dance recitals and being amazed at what the folks now call Black Girl Magic.
Driving past there today I could vividly recall running through the halls with my friends, going on special errands for teachers (yep, I was a pet!), lining up to go to art or gym or the library or home and I got hella verklempt. The building is mad small to me now, but it was larger than life back then. McKinley was where I experienced my first heartbreak (David C. didn't like me as more than a friend...) and cemented my lifelong desire for learning and excelling through hard work. if anyone had told that little baby pictured above that one day she'd be writing books and people all over the world (y'all gon let my one France sale cement my global sensation status!) would be reading them and she probably would have said "Nah, I'm no Ann M. Martin!" LMAO!