I grew up in a house where intelligence was rewarded, education the most important attainable goal and under achievement was worse than being born stupid. My mom spoke five languages and my dad spoke three; I spoke two, gibberish and Texan. I have three older siblings and three younger and I suppose I thought being in the middle it was my job to break things up a bit, you know, keep things from being boring. I did my job well.
Not to make excuses but I had strikes against me before I even started school; I was a lanky, bright red headed, freckled faced, kid with a melon mouth smile and an imagination that invaded my brain without warning. The most inane and innocuous events could set my mind off on journeys making me leave the classroom. My brain would take me off on tangents so it really wasn’t my fault if I didn’t hear my teacher assign homework or understand what was taught in class.
One gift I did have was the power to make my parents laugh. I had a ritual with my weekly spelling list. I would take the list into their bedroom, read off a word and then tell them what I thought the definition was by how the word sounded to me. I remember having the word dryad on the list in the third grade and I said dryad meant an advertisement that had not had something spilled on it. I can still picture my parents almost doubling over with laughter. Of course, the real meaning of dryad is wood nymph and I needed to know that it was but my parents loved my antics anyway. As I write, it strikes me what a strange word that is for third grade spelling. La Marque was an exceptional school back then and the standards for education were amazing, I doubt that word would be on spelling list for college students now. Luckily I learned enough by osmosis to graduate and I wish my dad had lived to see it happen. He was a Captain in the Merchant Marines and spent the last five years of his life going back and forth to Viet Nam. He died on Father’s Day in 1969 returning from one of those trips; he was only forty-seven. I never got to make him laugh again and I cannot tell you how much of the laughter left our house after his death. I didn’t send a straight "A" report card to my mom until I was 30 years old and had returned to college but send it I did along with a note that read: See mom, I really am your daughter!
One thing about not being a stellar student, you promise yourself when you are a parent, you are not going to make your kids ever feel bad about not making the grade. My youngest step-son, Gary, hated me. I am not exaggerating here, he literally wished me off the face of the earth and did everything in his child powers to make it happen. At four years old he put a water hose in an opened window of a neighbor’s house and turned it on, destroyed a garden a woman had cultivated for seven years, spray painted garages, mailboxes and stole things from people. He would take our son, Shawn’s toys and smash them with a hammer and on the first day of kindergarten, he came home with a note that had these words written on it… "Please do not send Gary back to school!" I am not making this up, it really happened. Okay, let’s think about this for a minute; I had a twelve year old daughter, eleven year old son, nine year old son, five year old son and an infant to take care of. The start of school under normal circumstance is a pretty happy time for a mom under those circumstance. When that school bell rings it is like 4 out 5 dentists are going to their offices and their wives get to go spend the money they are making…time for a happy dance, right? I was not happy to see a note where someone was wanting to send one of my dentists back home to pull all my teeth out! It took some persuasion but they did give Gary another chance and believe it or not his teacher soon told the class to just ignore his outbursts. Those were the days before mandatory kindergarten and teaching to the test, before education cut backs and economic demise. We don’t diagram sentences anymore and I seldom speak to anyone who has read the incredible books I enjoyed as mandatory reading but who knows, maybe different times require different sense…my phone is smarter than I am at times. Another school year is upon us and while cyber bullying is a concern and the use of laptops, cell phones the current protocol. Moms everywhere are, whether admitting to it or not, are feeling that relief of having some time to themselves whether, during the day or from early bedtimes. We love our families with all that we have but there is no crime in loving them from a bit of a distance at times. I love you all with all my heart but you wouldn’t want me camping in your living room…this paper is plenty close enough, right?