It was a cold winter morning, Mom was at our cafe, so Dad became the in-charge person to make sure we all got out the door on time and appropriately dressed. As always, I was the cow's tail. Just before heading out I couldn't find my gloves, and so, Dad, in his infinite wisdom, arrived at what he saw as the perfect solution, and which I saw as the most horrific. Brown work gloves. Just what a budding adolescent wants to wear, especially when she has a crush on a boy with black hair and sad brown eyes.
He put them on my hands under a bit of duress, and out the door I went. En route to the bus, now waiting at the end of the driveway, I managed to get them off my hands and stuffed into my coat pockets before I could be seen. I wasn't at the stage where I might humorously pass them off as an edgy fashion statement. Blending in was essential.
At some point in the day, I went to the lockers in the back of the classroom to retrieve something or other and walked away without checking my back trail. Next thing I knew, Teacher was waving that darn brown glove around the room and asking to whom it belonged. Nobody said a word. It belonged to no one. I sat mute. Guilt descended. How did I go home with only one glove? Scarred, that's how I went home. I'm still talking about it.
The other incident involves he of the black hair and sad brown eyes. Billy was his name. It was spring, we were outside having recess, when the bell rang telling us it was time to go in. I went one way, he went the other, resulting in a head-on collision. He got a gash on his head (created by my teeth), which required a few stitches, and I got one of my front teeth knocked out, the other to follow a few months later due to the damage done. This was not all horrible news, however. Life has its funny little ways.
You see, I had slightly - only slightly, I tell you - protruding teeth, with just a bit of a gap. I inherited these fine choppers from my father. I was no Bucky Beaver (aren't kids fun?) and so did not suffer the slings and arrows some kids were subjected to, but this may be the part where the term 'blocked out' comes from. Yes, I suppose the burden of proof does fall on me, so, here I am, fourth grade, pre-collision:
As you can see, good news. A bit of serendipity allowed me to have decent teeth, eventually, and without the fun of becoming Metal Mouth, which wasn't even a remote possibility at that point in our lives as a dental fund was not part of the family budget. As a matter of fact, it might well have precipitated my first visit ever to a dentist. More ensued. Many more.
And, the good news just kept rolling in. Billy called me that evening and asked how I was doing! I'm certain his parents were involved in this great unfoldment. No matter, it was Billy on the other end of the line.
Life goes on, things change. Now, I wear brown work gloves proudly and with great satisfaction. My teeth have occasionally garnered compliments - especially gratifying when they come from a dentist. You can read more about Billy and our meeting again, in subsequent years, here:
What precipitated all this talk of fourth grade? This great little poem I read a couple of days ago by a poet I was completely unfamiliar with. Yes, I do end sentences sometimes with prepositions, despite having been taught better.
On the first day of fourth grade, Mrs. Hunter
collected our penmanship samples to save
until June; by then, she said, we'd write
in the handwriting we would have all our lives.
Though she probably read that in a book
on child development, I was so excited
I could hardly stand it. In nine months
my adult self would be born, she would
send me a letter; in the way she swooped,
careened, and crossed her t's, I could
read everything I would need to know.
We were writing ourselves into the future.
We came closer each time we turned
the silver gears in the sharpener near the door,
the wood shavings tumbling inside,
smelling as if a house were being built.
~ Katrina Vandenberg, from The Alphabet Not Unlike the World, Milkweed Editions 2012
The top image is of a pencil sharpener, an artifact from an ancient culture, photographed in situ, which I found attached to a windowsill on the porch after my arrival here. It still contains the shavings Otis created, back when pencils were being used.
Teresa -- How nice that you keep bits and pieces of Otis around. It's all a continuum of your home. I write endings with prepositions too -- quite often even though I had the proper English classes in school. Maybe it's a rebellion against the old days of being proper all the time or maybe it's that I just don't enjoy writing within the lines. -- barbaraReplyDelete
There are many things left here that belonged to Otis and I am very grateful for them. Some are very old tools and equipment. Some are smaller things that also hold his life. Then, there are the gardens.... I do like the continuum that living on an old homestead allows.Delete
I think it's important to write in a more conversational tone, something I try to do, with varying degrees of success. There are those who have found a way to follow the rules and retain their own "voice," but I'm not one of them. Writing outside the lines has become more acceptable. Cormac McCarthy won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and he never used a quotation mark.
I love those old pencil sharpeners! I had one and my son loved it so much he talked me out of it years ago. But then I missed it so much that I ended up paying a lot for another newer version that works well, but nothing like the old one Dagan has. I still use pencil sharpeners for pencils and colored pencils.ReplyDelete
I love those prepositions. For some reason my English teachers never got on us about that, so I never learned any differently. Sad, but true. But I remember one teacher going on a tirade about using words like "stuff" and "junk"--and how words like that were the flotsam and jetsam of the English language. I had to go home and look up flotsam and jetsam!
I had a big old silver tooth right on a front tooth all through junior and senior high so all my pictures have me smiling with my mouth closed. ;)
Happy Friday the 13th, lady!! :)
I'm happy to hear that they are still in use. There is something about writing in a pencil that feels good.Delete
A silver tooth? That might trump the empty space I had for a few months going into summer and early fifth grade. Then I got a bridge that I hated, but it was better than the alternatives.... When I was 19, my parents paid to get caps on each side that held the two new front false teeth in place. Later, I had them replaced through even more improved circumstances. Ah, the history of teeth! :)
Thanks, Rita, for taking the time to read the older post and for leaving a nice comment there.
What an apt symbol of grade school--the pencil sharpener.! I don't remember having any crushes until the 6th grade. You must have been a precocious child!ReplyDelete
I was, I suppose. I seemed to be a step outside the rest: got my period in sixth grade, read John Updike by tenth. Yeah, life sped up for me, for a while.Delete
Plenty going on here for sure.ReplyDelete
There are just a very few people I know who can tell a story let alone a good one.
I missed the linked to story which was oh so good too. Thanks for sharing your some of your life TEvangeline!
I appreciate the kind words about my storytelling abilities. I'm glad you read the other post. Thanks for taking the time.Delete
What One Fly Says!ReplyDelete
Thanks, R.W. :)Delete
I remember from elementary school, a pencil sharpener which had a wheel with different sized holes where the pencils go in.ReplyDelete
All my pencils were the same size but by inserting one into a hole that was too large was neat. The result was that one side of the pencil tip was just wood while the other side was mostly lead.
The lead would break off leaving a sort of wooden scoop shape. By stabbing it into the desk this wooden scoop would crack and fall off.
At the time it was fun.
You must have been a real joy for your teacher, John. :) I'm chuckling, because there were a variety of creative ways to keep ourselves occupied as children.Delete
I remember having a pencil sharpener like that in school. When we would go up to sharpen our pencils, the boys would "accidentally" drop theirs while waiting in line so they could look up the girls' dresses. I remember "accidentally" kicking one boy! :-)ReplyDelete
You feisty little thing, you! :) Now, if a boy tried that, he'd probably be charged with a crime.Delete
The hand crank pencil sharpener brings so many feelings and memories to my present. I enjoyed everything about this post. The photo of the pencil sharpener, the photo of you as a fourth grader, the poem that is brand new to me and now I will keep it handy, and your way of writing. I like to read your words very much.ReplyDelete
It's interesting, how a simple item can conjure so many memories, isn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It's sometimes difficult to put myself out there, especially my younger self, so your comment means a great deal to me. Thank you, CiCi.Delete
I have a pencil sharpener just like that fastened to the side of my cellar stairs. The other day, when I was tracing a quilt pattern out of a book, I grabbed my last remaining no2 pencil and went to sharpen it. Skinny lines keep the pattern the right size.ReplyDelete
The story was great! I can relate to so much of it, and I am sure others can, too.
Hi Sandy, I'm happy to hear of another remaining pencil sharpener still in use. Thanks so much for your comments.Delete
"Skinny lines keep the pattern the right size." I like that line. There may be a message in there for me. :)
It's the smell of those sharpeners I loved - but what I loved even more was my grandpa sharpening our pencils for us with his knife. He was so good at it. The shavings were fine, and equal, and he always was careful to leave just enough lead showing.ReplyDelete
Today, in the boatyards and such places, there still are pencils being used, and now and then you'll see someone take out a pocket knife and spiff things up. Builders as well as quilters need to "keep the pattern the right size"!
I used a paring knife for years. And carpenters still use those chunky pencils, but very few actually write anything with a pencil.... at least that's the sense I get. I'm sure there are exceptions.Delete
I have a pencil sharpener like that. It was in a box of my father-in-law's things and although unused, so old that the grease that had lubricated it had frozen hard like glue. I resurrected it and use it frequently. (I prefer to use the old #2 pencils when doing carpentry work.)ReplyDelete
And I also remember the words of one of my high school English teachers, "A preposition is a very poor word to end a sentence with".
I'm glad to hear of the resurrection of the pencil sharpener due to your loving ministrations. I swear, I'm going to go out and buy a pack of #2 pencils. I have the perfect piece of pottery to hold them.Delete
Thanks, Montucky. :)
I still love to write in pencil. It just seems to offer more possibilities than pen - less permanence. However, probably due to the demise of the pencil sharpener (I hate dull pencils), I've used mechanical pencils for years.ReplyDelete
Good Morning, Cherie, I can understand how being able to erase and rewrite would feel good and create an economy of words. Perhaps writing in pencil for a short while every day would be a good practice for me, even meditative. Thanks for visiting and commenting.Delete
That IS how I felt learning to write in cursive, Teresa. What a wonderful poem (and I may just have to copy it and use it someday soon). I love putting pen to paper (or pencil) and the smell of shavings of wood. My father had such beautiful penmanship and I would copy it for hours.ReplyDelete
Ah, those "collisions" of childhood that stay with us. We all have them.
I love the smell of shavings, too. It evokes so many good memories. Thanks, Penny, for your thoughtful comments.Delete
Dear Teresa, how I enjoyed both this post and the linked one. How brilliant it must have been to ride horses, and ice skating and swimming in the pond in the yard. That word 'yard' over here calls to mind a space usually 16' x 10' paved with concrete-flags and decorated with the dustbin. And to hear your story of the Pow Wow with the Indians, WOW! indeed the only Indians I saw at that time were at the cinema, how much I coveted one of those spectacularly feathered headdresses!ReplyDelete
You must have been thrilled to find the very book with your doodling of Billy and your name. Enchanting Stories somehow is so perfect for your tale too, to have kept in touch with Billy and his family all through your life....I love the line in the poem:
'We were writing ourselves into the future.'
SO evocative and how true..how true!
hugs Jane x
Living in the country, we had more of a yard than a lawn. Lawns seemed more well-kept and our yard was a bit unkempt. I always find it interesting how these words have different connotations here and for you, there. It's nice to learn the differences.Delete
I really did have a pretty wonderful childhood. Finding that book was an Enchanting Story in itself, especially considering that we met again in those circumstances.
That's perhaps my favorite line in that poem, too. Yes, very evocative. Thanks, Jane, for taking the time to read the linked story, and for your sweet and insightful comments.
Dear Teresa, a deeply satisfying post to read--the poem, the pictures, and your remembrance of fourth grade and the embarrassment a young child can feel when she/he does something different from the flock. Peace.ReplyDelete
Yes, It was imperative to fit in. It's a hard thing to move beyond and feel good about oneself. It's also nice to be at a stage where I don't think it matters anymore. At least, I hope not. :)Delete