Friday, June 26, 2009

Tales from Old-School Third Grade

On Wednesday I forgot to pick up my sweet, precious, beloved, 8-year-old son, and my friend's two children, from camp at their elementary school. There are no excuses. My friend called me at 2:00 to see if I could pick up her son. I said "sure" and "why don't I get your daughter for you, too?" She was appreciative and assumed they were in responsible hands. She may have assumed wrong.

I had 45 minutes to get some things done, so I threw in some laundry and did a few dishes and then sat down at the computer to check on Facebook. Oh Facebook, you black hole of my time, you stealer of all free minutes, why can't I quit you!?! Is it obvious by now, mythical reader, that the next time I looked at the clock - yes, that would be the little clock at the bottom right-hand side of my computer - it was 3:15? Three-freakin'-fifteen! I was supposed to pick them up at 2:50.

It took me about a half a second to process the fact that my son AND TWO OTHER CHILDREN WHO I AM ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR had been waiting in line for 25 minutes at school, yet I was still sitting at my desk. I called the office and practically yelled at the secretary "I'M-ON-MY-WAY-I'M-SO-SORRY-PLEASE-TELL-THEM-I'LL-BE-RIGHT-THERE!" and then hung up the phone. Not two seconds later it rang and from the number I could tell it was Mrs. "B", who is in charge of the camp, calling to see if I was dead or in a ditch, because that is the only excuse for not picking up your children, right? So, I grabbed the phone and blurted out, "I'M-SO-SORRY-I-LOST-TRACK-OF-TIME-I-JUST-CALLED-THE-OFFICE-TO-TELL-THEM-AND-I'LL-BE-THERE-IN-JUST-A-MINUTE!" Before I could slam the phone down and take off out the door, she told me to calm down and don't wreck on the way and that she wasn't going anywhere.

Have I mentioned, mythical reader, that I live in the very best small town in the country? Well, I do. The county just built us a brand-new elementary school with all the best that technology has to offer, but we still have our same small-town teachers who love our children and the same small-town kids who all know each other, and I absolutely, positively can't imagine my children going to school anywhere else, forever and ever amen!

Well, after pulling up to the school and hearing my son proclaim with dramatic flair, "I can't believe you forgot us!", I got out of the car to apologize to Mrs. "B". She just laughed it off and said she told them she was going to take them home with her and serve frog legs and onions for dinner, which I thought was hysterical. 'Weird' food is one thing that makes my easygoing oldest child lose his mind. But just imagining her taking them home, reminded me of a story. And if you've know me for more than five minutes, mythical reader, you know I love telling stories.

Back in the early 80's when I was a third grader in another small town at another small school, I had Mrs. "W" for a teacher. Mrs. "W" was a great teacher. She did tell us one time after a music assembly that "rock-n-roll music" could change the rhythm of our hearts and that when we got to high school our friends might try to put drugs in our food at the cafeteria, so we should never take our eyes off our food. But other than that one side-trip to crazy town, she was a fabulous teacher.

When it was time to learn our multiplication tables, she came up with a contest. This was no ordinary contest. This was the contest to end all contests. Being the competitive little thing that I was (am), I was determined to win. It came down to the wire. Sarah "C" and Amy "M" and I were neck and neck and were all ready to say our last multiplication table on the same day. Mrs. "W" decided that the only fair way to determine the winner was to let us all say the last table that day, and if we all got it right, it would be a tie. As I'm sure you can imagine, it was a three-way tie. For our prize, we got to go see a movie with Mrs. "W" and her family on a Saturday and then go out to eat pizza. But wait, that's not all. We also got to go home with her to spend the night at her house. And as if that wasn't enough, we also got to, wait for it ... GO TO THE FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WITH HER ON SUNDAY MORNING!!! We thought it was the greatest prize EVER!

Yes, I hear you peoople at the ACLU going into apoplexy as I type, and I say "kiss it," because those were the good ol' days! It was wonderful. There are three things that I remember most about that weekend. One was that I got into the backseat of the wrong non-descript white sedan after we had eaten pizza and was momentarily horrified. The second was that I was so nervous about going to Mrs. "W"s church, because I was a good Southern Baptist girl, and I thought there might be kneeling or praying outloud involved at the Methodist church, and I didn't know what to do about that. I don't remember much about the service, so it must have been fine. The last thing I remember about that strange, wonderful weekend was fixing my hair in the bathroom in the morning before church.

At 8 years old in the third grade I curled my hair with a curling iron about every day. (I think I just remembered a hideous Toni home perm that my mother gave me that year that was growing out. Oh, I think I might need me some therapy now.) Anyway, Mrs. "W"s daughter was a few years older than we were and she was amazed that we were fixing our own hair, because her mother was still fixing her hair for her. I remember wondering why on earth she didn't do it herself. And once her mother saw us (I'm pretty sure Sarah was curling her own hair, too) she decided her daughter was plenty old enough to fix her own hair.

Looking back I'm not sure what shocks me most, that a teacher would let students spend the night with her, or that 8-year-old little girls could be trusted with HOT CURLING IRONS to fix their own hair. (The church part doesn't really shock me, because truly when you live in the Buckle of the Bible Belt in 1983 and you've invited your students to spend the night with you on a Saturday night, what else are you going to do with them on Sunday morning but take them to church?) Yes, I think remembering that curling iron is the kicker for me. It makes me realize that I am way too overprotective of my children. I am so afraid of them getting hurt, I don't let them touch anything. I'm sure that my 8-year-old has never cut anything with a knife. And the thought of him using any implement - even a brush - to fix his hair is ludicrous. He wets it a little so it doesn't stick up, but he surely doesn't brush it. (But that is probably a girl vs. boy thing, rather than a capability thing.) Good grief, I'm fairly certain my father was using large, sharp, rusty farm equipment at the age of 8, so I think I can now entrust my son with a butter knife. Actually, he will earn his whittling chip in Cub Scouts this year, so I think that is a step in the right direction.

Don't worry, mythical reader, I'm not planning on handing over sharp/hot/rusty implements to my children and setting them free, but I think it's high time I started entrusting them with more responsibility. I don't expect my oldest to go out and plow the field, but seeing that he can reach level 42 on his favorite Wii game, I think opening the washer, throwing in some clothes and soap and pushing the on button is not above his capability level. I guess we'll see. I'm so glad I was reminiscing about how things were "back in the day," and I'm sure my children will be thrilled with their new responsibilities. And to think, it's all because I was irresponsible about picking up my child at school. Ironic, huh?


  1. I love it Lori! BTW... I am editing Granny's interview and just heard Dad and Granny tell the story of how his Dad would put him on a horse with a sack of grain and send him to the mill to have it ground. He'd wait,then the miller would put him and the grain back on the horse and send him home. He was 5!!! Aaaaggghhh!

  2. You are too funny! The kicker for me was you using a HOT curling iron at age 8, especially since I know you don't let your kids touch anything! Annalise is 10 and I will only let her use my hair straightener with me in the room to make sure she doesn't burn herself and it's cool to the touch.

    You know I love you and your stories. I miss you too.