Preschool Story

By Katrina


This story is a fairly simple one, but one that amused me as well as giving me yet another example of how fine and delicious that breath between the worlds can be.  In 1994, I moved from the Mayberry town of Quartz Hill, California to the desolate Mountain Home AFB.  I had an appointment with Mountain Home that I’d been avoiding for a couple of years.  The idea of moving to Idaho did not please me.  I was happy in California and had been for many years and could not imagine what such a place could offer me.  My image of lush green forests that sprang to my mind when I thought of Idaho had be squelched some time before when people who had been there not only told me it was still the High Desert (yuck – way too long in the desert), but that it was a remote base, 60 miles from Boise, the nearest town.  Mountain Home town is actually a tiny little burg, resistant to change and upgrading, preferring to keep a rustic, friendly atmosphere.  That’s fine and I can appreciate the atmosphere that such an attitude fosters, but I also like to play (by that I mean innocent play like shopping, thrift stores, restaurants, movie theaters, etc) and require a city to be nearby to do so.  Now, I could probably truly enjoy hiding in Mountain Home.  Also, as is widely know, Idaho runs smack through the Aryan Nation, who do not suffer Witches and my kid kindly, so I knew that not only was I marrying a person who scorned what I was, I was not likely to find what I was.  I didn’t either, not for a long time.  

Before we divorced in 1991, my ex had been told that he’d be relocated to Mountain Home AFB in 1992.  I wasn’t at all excited about it then either.  We ended up divorcing and he actually volunteered for a two year tour in Japan to avoid going to Mountain Home.  When he returned from Japan, we remarried and as his dowry, he brought orders to Mountain Home AFB as his next base.  Damn.  So I was not traveling to Mountain Home AFB eagerly.  There’s a saying in the Air Force that the best two bases in the world are the one you just came from and the one that you’re going to next.  I couldn’t help but disqualify the latter from that collection from the git go.  It did not disappoint in the disappointing.  There was nothing to do.  I knew no one and was not a sociable person.  My new remarriage was already not working out (it wasn’t working out from about an hour after I met him at the plane).  One of the requirements of being married to Paul was that I work outside of the home.  There was no work to be had and he was disgruntled that I wasn’t finding a job anywhere.  I finally managed to be hired at the Child Care Center on the base and after a few weeks, I was moved to the Preschool, which was the finest thing to ever happen to me jobwise during the nearly 2 years I was there.  The Preschool or “Enrichment Program” as it was called, consisted of me (the person who did all of the paperwork, customer service and everything not involving teaching), my buddy Chris (our boss and the teacher of the 3-year-olds) and my buddy Lisa (the teacher of the 4-year-olds).  They were both very nice, very proper people, Churchy LaFemme-types (Although Chris had a wild streak that was seriously suppressed.  She had a mad crush on Sebastian Bach from Skid Row, so you know she was crazy waiting to be tapped and this was confirmed once we got her talking about her teen years and some of the stuff she’d pulled), so when I came out of the broom closet to them, I risked big rejection.  After an adjustment period, it was all cool for the most part with Chris making peace with it and Lisa trying not to think about it too much.  We were total buds, nonetheless  The Preschool was in a small building away from the main center and we worked autonomously, protected for the most part from the red tape and power plays and madness that ensued at the main Child Care Center facility.  They gave us the rules, we followed them with our own spin to actually make it work and made it look great on paper.  We won awards.  We aced all of the surprise inspections from the top of the Air Force ladder when the main center struggled.  We ruled.  The main center hated us, but couldn’t put their finger on why, so they just grumbled amongst themselves and didn’t have the cajonies say anything to our faces.  Haughty are we. 

Anyway, there’s the set up and here’s the story.  Like anyone else, I’m always pretty apprehensive when I go into a new job.  I’d just gotten settled into the job at the main center and deduced that I hated it when I learned that I was going over to the Preschool.  I knew it could be my salvation or my undoing.  It was difficult to get used to at first.  We handled 96 kids and their parents.  The kids were the easy part.  I made and served them snack, took them to pee and ran the office.  I think the coolest part about the job is that when class was in session, which was 5 hours of the day cumulative, I was totally alone.  There would be a phone call about every 15 minutes.  A kid would have to pee maybe once or twice an hour.  Occasionally, someone would stroll in for enrollment information.  I’d do my paperwork and otherwise, be alone with a computer.  I wrote three books during my 2 year tenure at the preschool.   Anyway, for the first two weeks, I kept catching glimpses of animals running past me out of the corner of my eye.  I’d see cats (distinct, dark, darting shapes), dogs, sometimes smaller animals like rats or mice.  I wouldn’t hear a scuffle or anything, just see the animal dart past and never dead on, just peripherally.  At first, I thought one of the guinea pigs had blown out of their cage or a rat had taken up residence.  The cats and dogs were harder to explain away.  After two weeks of seeing this, maybe 8-10 times a day, I finally cornered Chris and Lisa.  Had they ever noticed shapes of animals, scurrying out of the corner of their eyes?  Blink blink blink.  Um, no.  Not unless there was an escapee.  I took a deep breath (this was while I was still knocking around in the broom closet) and told them what I was seeing.  Lisa continued blinking and Chris said, “Oh my god, that’s weird.”  I thought she was just acknowledging that I was weird for seeing animals that weren’t there, but then she explained.  She was an AF brat herself and her father had been stationed there at Mountain Home before he retired out and stayed in the area.  She met her husband on base after he was already stationed there, so unlike most of us, Chris had been there for YEARS, since she was an older child.  We were standing in the indoor playground at the time and she said, “Look up.”  I did and saw runners around the ceiling.  She said, “Have you noticed the bins above the sinks in our rooms where we keep our paper towels and the soap?  They used to be chart holders.  The runners were used for curtains to divide off areas.  This building, when we first got here, was the emergency room of the hospital.”  I found that particularly interesting.  Our base boasted a brand new, bajillion dollar hospital, so I wasn’t surprised.  I thanked her and wondered why she was bringing this up, but stopped cold when she said, “and after it was an Emergency Room, it was the Base Veterinarian’s Office for about 5 years.”  Whoa.  Goosebumps.

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Note:  By the way, the date I had with Mountain Home AFB was kept.  I met my current husband, the love of my life, there after Husband #1-2 dumped me cold for someone else.