The Secret Pre-1A "Siety"

May 9, 2009

12 min read


One day our world turned over. Our teacher was seen crying and we knew exactly what needed to be done.

I entered pre-1A bursting with self-importance. I was now in the upper ranks of preschool, and disdainfully looked down upon anyone below my age group. In barely a year I would be in uniform, while they would be chanting childish lullabies.

Life wasn't simple for persons of my prestige. One had to know what kind of snack to bring, and with whom to share it. Popcorn was a product of the past, while chew-chews would buy the way into any political circle in the playground. Association with those of the lower classes was social taboo, and anyone caught in the act lost much respect of her peers, at least until she shared her snack.

Aviva was the queen of the class. Her superiority was due to her shoes. Everyone in pre-1A wore laces, but Aviva wore black patent leather slip-ons -- a sure sign of maturity. Everyone wanted to share snack with Aviva, and I despaired of ever getting close to her.

But one day I brought gum to school, and was the envy of the entire class. Gum was illegal in the room, so everyone wanted it. Aviva was ready to trade her shoes for them -- the very symbol of prestige. Only fear of her mother kept the shoes on her feet, and the gum in my sticky hand. For a while she thought of trading only one of her shoes, the trouble would be half, but then she thought better of it. So I offered the gum in return for her "best" friendship, and she promptly agreed. We stood in the midst of the kindergarten ruckus, held hands, and solemnly vowed that from that moment and on we were best friends, and only death would do us part.

The long and faithful friendship lasted from Sunday till Tuesday.

The long and faithful friendship lasted from Sunday till Tuesday. I walked into the classroom on that morning, and to my horror Aviva was sitting arm in arm with Esty, giggling and sharing a super-snack. Fuming, I vowed to seek justice. But who would be my judge? Morah, our teacher, was out of the question. She was an adult, and they understood nothing of such matters of importance. Then I thought of Shoshana. She was my best friend every Sunday morning, when she gave me a piece of homemade cake leftover from Shabbat. Besides, she had eight older sisters, and always knew everything.

I poured out my sorrow on Shoshana's shoulders, and she agreed to intervene on my behalf. At lunchtime, when Morah was out, she called for an official gathering of the "siety." We had formed the "siety of pre-1A" a week before. Attempts at forming a "society" had proven impossible; pronunciation was too difficult. The organization had come about when we discovered that Morah didn't like red lollipops better than green ones. In fact, she had told us, she didn't like lollipops at all. That lunchtime, every senior in the pre-1A had sworn in to the "siety." Adults, we had firmly concluded, were indeed strange beings. The "siety" would prevent our becoming one of them. In order to join the "siety," one had emphatically promise to never agree to grow up. Any members who would betray the pact by becoming an adult would be ostracized from the "siety," and never be spoken of again.

Shoshana, the official "lady chair," or when we remembered, "chairlady," opened the meeting with the "siety's" constitutional declaration.

"We the siety of pre-1A, promise to hold up, I mean, uphold, our "sacered" promise to maintain our childhood forever." With her older sister's help, Shoshana had finally gotten the words right.

"Amen," we all answered in unison.

She then got down to business, and demanded of Aviva an explanation as to why she had broken her promise to me, if death had not yet done us apart. But Aviva just shrugged her shoulders, and looked down at her paten leather slip-ons. Everyone looked at them too, and envied her more than ever.

I quickly reminded her that if she broke her promise than she would have to give me at least one of her shoes. There was immediate silence in the room, and the entire "siety" solemnly awaited Aviva's response. The tension was tangible, and the only sounds that could be heard were the chewing of sandwiches and hiccups from the back.

At last Aviva offered her defense.
"I fo'got," she sulked.

Shoshana creased her brows in concentration as she deliberated the case. She decided finally that fo'gotting was a legitimate excuse. But now that Aviva remembered, the friendship had to be resumed. The verdict was accepted by all, and after offering ‘xactly' half of my chewed gum, we were best friends once again. Justice had prevailed.

Life returned to normal, and our attention turned to more serious matters. Firstly, we had heard rumors that the kindergarten would be joining us on the trip to the zoo. Now that, we thought, was preposterous. There was just no way that we, the senior "siety" of preschool, would stoop to the level of kindergarten. Our days and nights were consumed by this dilemma, and we could not figure how to make those maddening Morahs understand.

Secondly, our naptime had been extended from 10 to 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes was forever. Yet, no matter what method we employed to get the message to Morah, she remained oblivious to our suffering. Every naptime, giggling and mock groans could be heard throughout the room, but Morah only extended our nap to 20 minutes. And in every"siety" member's heart, the conviction was strengthened to never ever grow up into one of those adults.

One day our world turned over.

Feigel considered herself an experienced hairstylist. She had started her career with her dolls, and had been practicing ever since. One morning, she styled three girls' hair using play scissors. Everyone was in awe of her accomplishment, though deep in our hearts lay a tiny seed of doubt as to what our mothers would think of the trendy hairstyles. Feigel had gone to wash her hands from all the germs, leaving strict orders for the clients not to move, lest the crooked haircut get ruined. We stood around the heroic volunteers admiring the work, when Feigel came running into the classroom.

"Morah is crying. I saw Morah crying!!"

The news passed like lighting throughout the "siety", and an emergency session was called. Everyone gathered around Feigel as she recounted the tale. Feigel was on the way to the sink, when she passed by the teachers' lounge. The door was slightly opened and she could see Morah sitting, tissue in hand and tears running down her face, across another teacher.

Feigel repeated the story to anyone who would listen, and we grew deeply impressed with Morah's tears. For a moment we even considered opening our "siety" to her, but first we had to find out why she had cried. Some members raised the possibility of asking her, but the option was rejected immediately. Most of us had the gut feeling that she wouldn't answer us.

"It's a real diamond, and it costs at least 10 dollars, maybe more."

Shoshana cleared up the mystery. After all, she knew everything there was to know of the adult world.

"It's because she isn't a kallah [a fiancée]!" she announced confidently.

"What's that?" we all wanted to know.

"It's when a lady has a diamond ring on her finger," she explained.

"Like mine?" Yenti asked proudly displaying the 10-cent diamond ring on her chubby finger.

"No, silly," Shoshana rolled her eyes. "It's a real diamond, and it costs at least 10 dollars, maybe more."

Our minds boggled at this piece of news. Adults must be really rich.

"Anyways," Shoshana continued, "if you have a ring, then you get a chassan, [a fiancé] and that means that you are a kallah. My sister is 20, and she cries a whole day that she isn't a kallah."

So why didn't the Morah just buy a ring, and then she would have a chassan, we wondered. But Shoshana seemed to know better, and insisted that grooms and rings came together.

We spent the entire lunchtime pondering the great dilemma. Kindergarten and naptimes were all but forgotten. We had real adult problems to worry about now.

"My brother is very old," I finally offered. "I could ask him to be Morah's chassan."

Proposals quickly followed as everyone brought forth brothers and cousins. But Shoshana claimed it was improbable. Besides, Morah was the adultest adult we knew of, and it seemed that nobody's brother could ever be as old as her.

"We could write a letter to Hashem," Chani suggested timidly, "and ask him to send a ring…"

Pure brilliance. Why hadn't we thought it before? We eagerly set about the task, but quickly encountered an obstacle. Nobody knew how to write. Miriam, the artist, solved the problem. She volunteered to draw a picture of Morah's sad face thinking of a ring and a chassan. Hashem would surely understand.

The entire "siety" clustered around Miriam as she drew the letter to Hashem. Everyone added their own touch of color, and the task was finally completed. Shoshana offered to bring an envelope from home, and the rest of the "seity" promised to bring as many stamps as we could to school the next day. The more stamps there were on the envelope, we knew, the quicker it would get to heaven.

The next morning, all the stamps were hidden in Shoshana's locker, where Morah couldn't see them. Lunchtime, the stamps were reclaimed and everyone was ordered to lick them. There was a wild scramble as every girl fought to secure the best place on the envelope for her stamp. Only through great difficulty was Shoshana able to regain order. The envelope was covered with stamps. Most had been taken off old letters and had black marks on them, but we didn't care; stamps were stamps. Using a black marker, Shoshana painstakingly copied the word Hashem onto the envelope from a poster on the wall. Aviva received the honor of mailing the letter. There was a mail box right near her house, and by standing on her schoolbag, she could drop it in to the slot, after school.

The next morning Aviva was late. We impatiently awaited her arrival, anxious for the fate of the letter. When she finally walked in, we pounced on her demanding to know what had happened. She quickly reassured us that the letter was safely in the mailbox. She had encountered some technical difficulties, when she realized that the school bag wasn't high enough, and she couldn't reach the slot. She was forced to ask her mother for assistance, and of course brought trouble. Adults always did. Her mother claimed the letter wouldn't go anywhere. What utter nonsense. But using the age-old method -- the temper tantrum -- Aviva's mother was finally persuaded, and the mission accomplished. Now all we could do was wait for a reply.

"Do they have stamps in heaven? How will Hashem send us His answer?"

But then Feigel, the hairstylist, raised a worrisome issue.

"Do they have stamps in heaven? How will Hashem send us His answer?"

Twenty anxious faces turned to Shoshana. How could we have forgotten to put stamps in the envelope?

"Don't worry," she quickly reassured us. "Hashem will just send it back in the same envelope."

But of course, why hadn't we thought of that? At peace with ourselves we resumed normal activities of playing, sharing, and fighting. Only after a long while had passed did we notice that Morah had not yet shown up. We wondered where she could be, for Morah never came late. According to our knowledge Morah lived, slept and ate in school. Never for a moment did we imagine that she was ever outside the classroom, or teachers' lounge. Now what could be in the teacher's lounge that she wasn't coming out?

We considered sending a spy to check things out, when Morah Ester entered our room. Morah Ester was the kindergarten teacher, and she was ancient, even older than our Morah. We knew that because she had lines all over her face.

"Well, kinderlach," Morah Ester said in her rusty voice. "I have something very important to tell you." She had a wide, adult smile on her face and the lines twitched as she spoke.

"Your Morah won't be coming to school today. Do you know why?"

We stared at her uncomprehendingly, wondering if those spidery lines could ever wash off.

"Your Morah became a kallah last night." The adult smile was stretched to its limits. "I want to hear a big mazal tov."

We duly followed orders.

"Soon, another Morah will be coming to take over for today. I want you to behave like good little kinderlach and Morah will be very proud of you."

Morah Ester turned and left the room.

We stared at each other in amazement, and pandemonium broke out. That letter must have gotten to heaven really quickly. We were immensely impressed with ourselves and our clever work, and we were all heroes for the day. Morah got her chassan, and that meant she had a ring, and the "siety of pre-1A" was perfectly happy.

This article originally appeared in Hamodia.

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