Friday, May 13, 2011

Kindergarten Debutante, by Margaret Takacs

Margaret wrote many wonderful stories. This one was a favorite for so many of us. I want to repost it today in remembrance of a life well lived.  ~ Bonnie

During a span of our lifetime certain childhood memories will stay with us, because our families and friends don't let us forget them. This is such a story.

My father died in World War I. At the age nineteen, my mother became a widow with one child. We had to go to live with her parents in a small rural town in Hungary.

My grandparents’ house was a long, rambling building with not much frontage toward the street, but reached far back toward the backyard and garden. At the whole length of the house was a veranda with lots of potted plants on it, and outside there was a flowerbed with roses. The front of the house was our living quarters; the back was used for grandpa's workshop and the students’ bunk Beds. I was not allowed to go in there, but I loved to peek in the window and watch how the boys were singing, hammering, and putting pieces for shoes together. Singing, always singing and bantering with each other.

Grandpa was a master shoe maker and president of his guild. Students who wanted to learn a trade had to do it the old fashion way, moving into the master's house. They paid for room and board as tuition, and spent years  practicing and learning their trade till they become masters of their own.

I was four years old, going to kindergarten. We went to school earlier than in the U.S.A. We learned to count, build with blocks and paint. We spent time making crafts, cooking with baby small utensils, and, of course, playing a lot. Good manners and social graces, getting along with each other was a very important subject.

At the end of the school year our teacher always put on a show for our parents showing off our accomplishments. At the end of the show she let us individually perform something of our choice. I told my mother that I had a surprise for her which would make her very proud of me. I could hardly wait the day to come.

Finally the day arrived. There I was, dressed in my prettiest pink pinafore dress, velvet ribbon bow cascading down my hair. I curtsied to the audience and whole heartedly delivered a song -- a dirty, bawdy song, which left my audience in the state of shock! I curtsied again and looked around waiting for my applause to come. Stone silence from the audience, except my mother’s wish to be dead from embarrassment came a sobbing question; "My God, Where did you learn that?" I said, "From the boys in grandpa's workshop.” By that time I was in tears.

The audience sized up the situation feeling sorry for the heart broken child gave me applause, saying my performance was one what they would never forget. And they didn't ~ teasing me from time to time, asking when my next performance will be scheduled.


  1. Bravo Margaret! That was a great story. I could visualize your grandparents home and actually see the roses and potted plants. Learning good manners and social graces in kindergarden was part of the Hungarian tradition. I wonder if it is still a requirement today.
    The funniest part for me was your performance of the bawdy song at the end of the school year. Typical of the innocence of a four-year-old.

  2. Margaret, I loved your story. It brought to mind many of my misadventures of youth. I'm sad for the little girl that stood there , fully antisapating applause and pride from your mother. What a sad lonely moment that must have been for you. Thank you for sharing your story. Gail

  3. Margaret, this is one of my favorite stories. You must sing this song for our class sometime. Laughing with you, Gloria

  4. Hearing your stories of life in Hungary are always so interesting and moving. I could visualize the lovely gardens, the veranda, the busy workshop, and that darling four-year old with the velvet ribbon bow cascading down her hair waiting for a nice applause after her final curtsy. Thank you, Margaret.

  5. My Dear Margaret, I love this very visual story.
    It should be published!