Monday, June 25, 2018

Patterns and Pictures

An odd thing happened one day at school. This lady with a Dorothy Hamil haircut came to get me from class. I had never seen her before.

She apparently wasn't a stranger because Mrs. Marshall knew her, so I didn't put up a fuss or ask her to tell me the password.

(Due to my sharp fear of one of my siblings being kidnapped, we'd developed a password in case a stranger tried to pick us up from school. I used to narrow my eyes at passing cars and silently dare them to try to take one of us.)

Anyway, I went with this Dorothy lady willingly. She took me to a square room where she showed me all these flashcards of patterns and pictures. I had to answer a bunch of questions and recreate some of the patterns.

She had her own paper and was marking stuff on it. Her mouth moved a lot. When she would write, her lips would press into each other, then purse, then press into each other, then purse. It was weird.

But she was nice. When I finished, she told me I would have to come back for more, and I didn't mind. The work she gave me was fun. I had to put blocks together, complete sentences, add up simple problems. It was no big deal.

Or so I thought....

Sunday, December 10, 2017


So my friends left. They moved to farthest reaches of the world. I'm devastated.

There's a knife in my heart and it's twisting and twisting and twisting, and so guess what else?

My teacher decides we need to learn multiplication.

Oh. My. God.

It's torture. It's mind-numbing. And everyone gets it but me.

I have to memorize numbers. Numbers.

What is the point? Why must she make us go through this agony of patterns that hold no meaning?

I sit at my desk, staring daggers at a succession of multiplication problems, while everyone's pencils are scraping busily on their papers.

Well, I choose not to do them, and instead I pretend to work and draw pictures along the side. Mrs. Marshall stands at the board, writing out the plans for the next subject, and she never notices. She trusts we're all obediently multiplying.

See how sneaky I am? See how smart? I managed to avoid Math. I think I'll try it again tomorrow!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Great Tragedy

As a third grader, there were things that frightened me.

A lost ball.
Brussel sprouts.
Stewed tomatoes.

But the absolute worst, the one that kept me up nights and made me all kinds of sad was a $5 dollar word of which most third graders had never heard.


Yep, that's the word. The awful, horrific, life-altering terror that ruined everything.

It was a plague that accosted me, wrapped its cold fingers around my heart, ripped it out and crushed it into a powder.

My friends -- Liam, Grace, Georgie, Phillip, and Andrew -- were MOVING.

Because of a "transfer". Liam's job was making him move to Seattle. Half-way across the world where they didn't have Blue Bell or anything else good.

We lost our friends, our confidantes, our partners.

We took them to the airport. There were tears and hugs and I had hope that someone would come running at the last second to say they didn't have to go.

But that didn't happen. They boarded and left, and it was one of the saddest moments of my life.

My fellow redhead, Miss Grace, was gone. And her boys were gone. I cannot tell you how it hurt.

When we got home, my mom started a campaign. She stuck an envelope on the avocado green refrigerator door with the words "Seattle Fund" on the front.

I raced to my room and took every last cent out of my electric blue E.T. vinyl wallet and put it in the envelope.

I prayed and prayed and prayed we'd visit.

But...we never got there.

A life lesson that sometimes God says no.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Flip Heard 'Round The Third Grade


I had started living up to the phrase " a piece of my mind". I had no fear practicing it and standing up for what I thought was right.

And one day, I had had enough...

We were in class, working at those desks that had the spots for tote trays. I sat on the end of a row that faced the desks in the center of the classroom. The "bully" sat in the row opposite me also facing the center.

I can't remember what he did to cause the upcoming event, and neither does my mother. But I'm sure he'd made fun of somebody. Or threatened someone. He liked to do that a lot. He liked to make people feel inferior to him, and my heart could not stand for that.

So, I yelled at him. Across the classroom.

Apparently, he'd had enough of my reprimands and, before the teacher could stop him, raced toward me. I was still telling him off, unafraid of his menacing face and figure.

He didn't holler back. He just flipped me and my desk over.

Now, my school had those collapsible walls, and they were all pushed back. So 4 third grade classrooms ceased working when I went flying.

No one moved. Everyone thought I was dead.

But then, out of the wreckage, I shot to my feet, my roar greater than he could handle. I shook my finger at him. I told him he was mean. I demanded he do better. And I showed him that no matter what he did to me, I would NOT back down.

We were both carted to the principal's office. He got a spanking. I got a talking to.

My mother was shocked, but not too much. She asked why I only got a lecture. My teacher said, "Because we teachers were silently cheering her on."

And that was that.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Piece of My Mind

I learned a phrase in third grade. Not sure who I heard it from, but it was probably my mother. Of course, my father did a decent job of acting out the saying, so it could've been him, too.

At any rate, I discovered what "a piece of my mind" meant.

But I also realized I'd practiced the phrase since my first confrontation with "the bully". And I thought to myself, "Huh, guess I'm already an adult."

Therefore, I went about my business, telling people what I thought when the situation warranted it. 'Cause I had lots of things figured out, you know.

I could take care of my brother and make macaroni and cheese. I could ride my bike to "7/11" and buy whatever item my mother forgot from the store. I knew how to send wishes to everyone in the world, and when my sisters had bad dreams, I could calm them down.

Yep, I was tearin' it up. And told people so.

Which meant I started earning my nickname and became true to the color of my hair.

"Red" knew what she was about and protected those she loved with words.

And fists if necessary.....

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Busted Curfew

How old were you when you got to stay up past midnight for the first time?

Well? How old?

Me, I was 8.

Yep, you read that right. 8.

(Okay, so it was for church. And I had to wear an itchy dress with itchy tights. And there was standing. And kneeling. And a long homily.)

But I got to see what the world looked like at 12:00 a.m., and let me tell you, it was sparkly.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Big Idea

You think I'm kidding. I'm not. You don't understand the Big Ideas that abounded from everywhere. I was never safe.

I think that was one of the reasons why I was always outside. It was harder for her to find me when I was running around the neighborhood.

Of course, that strategy only prolonged everything. I had to go home sometime.

So, Big Idea #10 happened...

As I waited for the life-altering reveal, I shook in my shoes. My knees knocked. I broke out in a sweat.

It's an Advent Calendar. She's hung it on the wall. It has a Christmas tree on it, and underneath are these little pockets with numbers on them. 1-24. One pocket for each day in December.

Inside the pockets are rolled up messages.

Wendy gets to pull it out. She plucks Day 1 from its spot and unrolls it. She reads aloud...

"Let's watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!"

I'm stunned. I didn't hear her right. Let's do what?

While Maria and Wendy cheer, and Bill tumbles after them as they run toward the TV, I'm left staring after them, my faculties turned to mush.

But this was no trick. Mama was turning on the TV, and a most beloved Christmas special was playing. This was not a trick.

I gathered my composure and strolled into the living room. I sit.

I hadn't been scared. Nope. Not me. I knew it all along.