Kindergarden was my first year there. I narrowly escaped being homeschooled by Shari but Miss LaVerne (I'm 95% positive of her name) called in August, announcing that a spot had opened up. I think Shari and I were both relieved. I couldn't have asked for a better kindergarden teacher, they don't come much better than Tracy Utley. She homeschools her own boys now and I'm jealous that they get her teaching for more than one year; I would learn from her any and every day! I weirdly remember a very specific leopard print belt that she would wear sometimes, guess I was a wanna-be fashionista. Still am--a wannabe that is. Samantha Wilson became my very best friend and I started crushing hard on Nick Ingham. In fact, a few years ago I was going through some papers from the school and Ms. Utley had sent home a note, informing Paul and Shari that their precious daughter had chased poor Nick around the playground, trying desperately to kiss him. I don't think I caught him. Understandably heartbroken, I eagerly signed up for the part of "girlfriend of the purple wise man" in the Christmas program. His name was Nick Tucker (guess if I couldn't have one Nick, I'd go after the other). He thought it was love; even calling me the following summer to ask me to Taco Bell. I assume we were going to ride double on his tricycle. I turned him down, there was a neighbor boy down the street who had just got his training wheels off. Sorryboutcha Nick.
First grade brought Ms. Fontenot into my life. She was utterly precious and I'm sad that I've lost touch with her. She even pulled out my first tooth. Monumental moment! I'm one of those lucky babies with a summer birthday, with the upsides of pool parties but the downsides of no one even knowing you have a birthday. New Hope was great about making every child feel important on their birthday (or the made-up pretend birthday for the summer birthdays)! Everyone received a birthday book, containing notes from every single classmate, the teacher, and the principal, Ms. Pitts. I still have mine from first grade. Jevon had the best handwriting, but love-struck seven-year-old me cherished the note from Nick Ingham the most, of course. The truth came out: "Taylor. I hope that you have a great birthday. You are fun on the playground because you chase J.D. and I." Knew it. And I still laugh at Sam Wilson's combination of "really" and "very"; "you are my friend! you're vely vely nice. you are fun..." I get mixed up, but I'm fairly sure that first grade is when I started asking more questions about God and sometime around November 1998, I became a Christian in Ms. Pitt's office.
I was so excited about second grade. Miss Debra Johnson, our classroom helper in first grade, had taken the job as our second grade teacher and I adored her. I modeled my pretend classroom at home after hers, even calling myself Miss Johnson (gosh I was a creepy kid). She gave us the best projects, making Egyptian masks and sugar cube pyramids. We learned all about Egypt before Halloween and I think 5 out of the 7 girls in our class showed up to the Fall Festival in some sort of Cleopatra garb. Remember when report cards graded based on Excellence, Satisfactory, or Needs Improvement? I miss that. I found one from New Hope tonight during the frantic search for my old SAT scores. E's all across the board, except for one category. Any guesses? Nope, not math; surprisingly, I used to be a beast at numbers. Physical Education was my downfall. S's filled the category. Guess we can't all be the best at everything.
Third grade was one of the best. Ms. Peabody was the perfect teacher for me at that time. We learned responsibility through cleaning out the guinea pig cages every Friday. Nick Ingham and I were the math studs, sitting by ourselves at a separate table whizzing through timed tests like nobody's business. I still had a crush on him; he still didn't care. Cool Nick. I found out that I was moving that year and my wonderful friends threw me a surprise going away party. I was completely oblivious. The whole day they were all whispering to each other, and I felt so left out when they hushed up when I approached. They ambushed me after class, wrapping a blindfold around my head, and banishing me to the far back of Shari's mini van. When we arrived at the surprise destination, they whipped off the bandana and there was a cake in front of me. I'll never forget their thoughtfulness.
The best parts of New Hope stay with me. I'm not sure there were ever any bad parts, except maybe leaving. Morning devotions, songs about Jesus complete with hand motions, reading books as a class beneath the weeping willows outside, readathons, fall festivals, and Christmas programs with people like Mary Julia, Sam, Grace, Shawnell, Janelle, Jevon, J.D., Thomas, Todd, and NeNe created an environment that I miss so much. New Hope is like home. I went back and visited, even attending school for a day during my spring vacation. When you're around people like that, school isn't a dreaded place. They've had reunions since 6th grade graduation, but it's been a geographical impossibility for me to ever attend. But I've kept in touch with most of them. I visited Nick at Rice University for Halloween 2 years ago (I think he got taller, if it's possible), saw Sam during a stop in Franklin 3 years ago (our Taylor Swift fetishes match, I only wish we had gotten to jam out together during our high school years), and exchanged letters with Mary Julia for several years (that girl can WRITE!). I can't wait to see what we turn out to be. We were New Hope Academy Acorns and I can tell we are well on our way to becoming Oaks of Righteousness.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good new to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
to release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
and the day of vengeance for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor"
Missing those years but thankful for where I've been since. All those acorns are thought of fondly and often by A Very Lucky Girl.