Written by Sammie Lee Wilhoit
Art by Alyssa Luongo
There is a common phrase that people peak in high school – that it was the high point of their life. They were popular; a cheerleader or an athlete. I didn’t peak in high school. Due to my nearly impeccable memory, I can confidently state that I peaked in preschool.
There were my two best friends – the three amigos – Riley, Jordan, and I. We captivated the attention of the preschool. If we were ranked by popularity and relative power, Jordan would be the Regina George of our preschool followed by myself and then Riley, the mini plastics. Jordan was confident and outgoing. She was a brilliant artist. She could do cartwheels since she was two and she threw the best birthday parties. Her birthday parties were held in her parent’s large two-story house and had the same formulaic plan: birthday dinner, cake, pinatas, gift-opening, movie, sleepover, and lastly, gift bags. It was incredible. Playdates at Riley’s were more casual. We would make lemonade, play dress-up and watch Survivor. Jordan and I were closer to each other on account of us being “birthday twins”. We were born five minutes apart, on the same day in the same hospital. I was older, but she was the leader of the group.
In preschool, I learned from others. The teachers taught us to write, count, and speak Spanish. My friends traded me Fruit-By-The-Foot and Rice Krispy Treats for my fruit leather and granola bars. My friends who were a year older than me looked after me. They taught me to climb the monkey bars, dream a little bigger, and swim.
Summers at preschool were the best. Lathered in sunscreen, we would lie out in the sun tasting honeysuckle flowers to see if they tasted as sweet as they smelled. Hot days were spent running through sprinklers or lounging in the pool. In the pool, we would talk about advertisements we saw–The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D, room decorating contests – and the dreams we had. On Sundays, we would have ice cream sundaes and look upon the yard stretched endlessly beyond.
I learned bravery and getting outside of my comfort zone from Mia. She was one year older than me and had wild blond curls. Her two older brothers gave me a love for marble machines, LEGOs, and video games. She gave me a love of adventure. One day, we climbed a twenty-foot tree in her yard. She climbed ahead, persistent and stubborn even when she got up five feet from the top of the tree and the weight from her thirty-pound frame made the top of the tree sway from one side to the other. I stayed a few feet below, cautious. Her mother arrived outside, looking around. She called for us and we yelled back, excited and happy. She saw us and ran back inside the house, returning with a camera. She took photos of us in the tree, then asked us to climb back down carefully. The spiraling branches downward resembled a staircase, but the thrill of validation filled our hearts with pride.
There are moments in our life that we focus on, shimmering and precious and golden. For me, that was preschool. But I had a life before and will continue to have a life after. The best I can do is learn from when I peaked and what made preschool the best time of my life. To walk into the world with open arms and an open mind, embracing anything in my path. Finding magic in experiences like sunsets or star-gazing or a good conversation. Not knowing the future but knowing that I will be okay.