The Eksmo publishing house has published a new book by the writer Masha Traub - a frank childhood story told from the perspective of a girl Rita. In her memories of kindergarten, friendship, love, betrayal, coldness of adults, many will recognize something of their own. We publish a fragment of the book with the permission of the author.
Adults often say, “That year was my defining year” or something like that. Actually a lie. Everything is decided in childhood. For me, everything was decided in the year when I moved to the senior group of the kindergarten. If I went to another kindergarten or did not go at all, or I had other teachers, then I would become different. More precisely, like this: I wouldn’t be like that. And adults say they don't remember anything. When I asked my mother about her kindergarten, she always answered that she did not remember. Well, nothing at all. Lies again. Every adult remembers. Just don't tell your kids about it. The names and surnames of children and teachers, their appearance, gait, special signs, habits, clothes - everyone remembers perfectly. The teacher's hat, which looks like the skin of a wet dog, her own favorite dress with an appliqué on the pocket, the dress of Nastya or Katya, whom she was mortally jealous of and dreamed of the same - even the drawing of this coveted outfit is helpfully prompted by memory. The smell of mittens, which are laid to dry and are sure to fall behind the battery - and you have to climb to get it. And there is always dust and it’s scary to put your hand in there - what if someone pulls from below or bites? Yes, mittens also smell like wet dog. The taste of porridge, meat casseroles, the smell of cabbage soup and cutlets. Painful riddles to which there is no and cannot be an answer. Why do boiled eggs always turn blue when you peel them? Is the yolk green on the outside and yellow on the inside? Why is an omelette always fluffy like a pie in the kindergarten, but at home it quickly deflates and becomes flat? Why did tights and stockings always fall off no matter how hard you pull them up? Why if a boy in shorts over girlish tights is normal, but if in pants, and not in sweatpants and not in leggings, then “I imagined - I tucked my tail”? All this freezes in memory for life.
When I was growing up, all the children went to kindergarten, and if they didn’t, then they were considered sick or abnormal. So all parents sent their children to kindergarten, and the sooner the better. I went at two and a half years old, which was considered too late. Those who survived the nursery group were different from the rest of the children even in their eyes. Our garden was considered the most ordinary, but good. In the sense that children from “decent” families were also sent to it. And those who are from indecent families (like me, for example) - went "according to registration." My mother always emphasized this - "we are registered." This meant that I could not be kicked out, and "we have the right." Though I'd rather be considered "decent".
Our kindergarten did not have a name, just "the one next to the clinic, between the garbage dumps." The neighboring garden was called "in the former dump" and was intended exclusively for children "by registration".
But in our kindergarten each group had a name. The eldest was called "Birch". Because a birch tree was painted on the wall on the stairs. The paint on the wall was peeling off, and the birch had long been bare. Where the artist had painted the leaves, gray spots gaped. And half of the trunk, the one from the floor, was covered up. They started repainting and forgot, or the paint ran out. But that's okay. In the younger group, we were called "Borovichki" because a mushroom with a face was painted on the wall. All the children who first fell into the group began to cry bitterly and asked to go home. The mushroom, again due to peeling paint, grinned and sparkled with a single tooth, and even that was black, like a fix. I didn’t know what a fix is, and none of the children knew, but adult parents called the mushroom “fixed”. Worse than the drawings on the walls in the kindergarten was only the wall painting in the children's clinic next door. Those of the children who did not have time to be frightened to death in a polyclinic in very early childhood learned what real horror is in the younger group of kindergarten. In the clinic, cartoons of the cat Leopold and mice were depicted on the wall. I hated this cartoon. For some reason, the artist chose a series in which the cat ate Ozverin tablets, and carefully copied the image. The cat on the wall turned out to be scary, with a mustache on end. He tried to pounce on the mice, releasing hefty, like sabers, claws. The artist obviously had problems with scale, otherwise why did he draw claws the size of two Leopold's heads? The mice weren't terrifying either. A fat gray mouse carefully hugged his own paw, rolled up in a hefty cast, and a thin white mouse held on to a handkerchief wrapped around his head - his teeth ached, so much so that a hefty tumor grew on his cheek.
Here adults are convinced that all children love to draw or color. And adults, looking at children's scribbles, praise children. Sometimes it is better to tell the child the truth right away, otherwise he will grow up and become an artist later. And he will begin to draw on the walls of children's clinics and kindergartens. And children will begin to receive emotional trauma already in infancy.
What else can I say to start? In the garden, all the children grew up sharply. We started self-service very early. The nurseries quickly got used to the potty, and by the younger group everyone confidently wielded spoons. In the middle group, they tied their shoelaces with almost sea knots, and those who did not have this skill were considered mentally retarded. And they got every chance of expulsion from the kindergarten. Few wanted to be idiots. We knew our names, home address, mother's first and middle names, and the teacher's first and middle names. Answer clearly without hesitation. And if you think about it or you are unlucky with a name and patronymic - some Vyacheslav Stanislavovich, or Alexander Alexandrovich, or even worse Vsevolodovich, then also go to another garden with a diagnosis. Our "decent" kindergarten does not need such children.
We all felt lonely. Even children from decent families were all equal in their loneliness. Yes, we felt left out. As in a children's game, with which we were pretty tormented from the younger group - "the third extra". We were superfluous, preventing parents from living peacefully, working, quarreling, reconciling, having new children, and going on business trips. We became redundant at home, so we were sent to kindergarten. Our parents are the same superfluous children, only grown up. They believed that if a child does not go to kindergarten, then he will not survive in school, will not prepare for life. And he will certainly feel bad later. And no one thought about the fact that we, the children, felt bad now. Kindergarten was considered an obligatory item in the life program according to which our parents and their parents lived, and the same fate awaited our children - a nursery, a kindergarten, a school, an institute, a job. Collective. bosses. Holidays and holidays, according to the schedule. It’s better not to take sick leave…
"Extra children", Masha Traub, EXMO, 2019.