Thursday, May 24, 2018
This may be tooting my horn, but, well, I'm just going to say it, I was really good at first grade. Things like reading and spelling came easy to me. In fact, my first grade teacher, we'll call her Ms. H., even had me help struggling classmates with their spelling words, puffing me up like a peacock.
When I entered first grade, the school was just implementing a new method to teach reading, known as the Letter People. Mr. C – Cotton Candy, Mr. D – Delicious Donuts, Mr. L – Lemon Lollipops, Mr. M – Munchy Mouth. Inexplicably, I remember being hungry a lot at this age.
Nonetheless, I breezed through first grade, with possibly an unnatural affection for oddly shaped characters and gratuitous alliteration, but also with a great deal of confidence in my spelling prowess.
Riding high on my first grade successes, I charged into second grade with my curly, red head full of consonants and vowels, possessing a capable grasp on how they all fit together.
It was well into the school year, and as a class, we were practicing our spelling words out loud, but individually as the teacher called on each of us. When my name was called, I braced for the challenge. My word was 'hill'. Pfff. So easy. Straightening in my chair, jutting out my chin, I sounded off.
“H, E, L, L.”
A satisfied smile on my face, I waited for my expected affirmation of accuracy.
It started with snickers, but erupted into full on shrieks of glee. Little glistening eyes filled with delight. Even Mrs. C - Cranky Crab was laughing. Eyebrows furled, looking from one to the next of them, I wondered what had gotten into these people.
Silently, I spelled the word again. H, E, L, L. Yep, that's when I heard it. A look of terror crossed my face. Would I be sent to the principal? Would there be a paddling waiting for me at home? Was I in a hill of a lot of trouble?
No cause for alarm. Mrs. C – Crusty Cow offered me a second chance to spell it. And this time, remembering my spelling rules, I put the 'i' before 'e'.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
We were on a family vacation at a crystal clear, mountain lake in Tennessee. My parents had rented a lake cabin for our week-long stay, devoted to boating and skiing.
Our first day, my sister and I had already explored the nearby woods, fashioning a make-shift fort in a cluster of trees, but, bored with that fairly quickly, we then turned our attention to the beach.
Walking along the sandy edge of the water, we discovered a nest of floating, gelatinous blobs. Nodular. Brain-like. Groovy. And I don't mean in the 1960s flower child way. Bobbing on the ripples.
My sister asked me what they were, and being the smart ass, eleven-year-old I was, it was exactly the right amount of encouragement I needed to contrive a far-fetched tale, intended to scare the heebie-jeebies out of her, about these unfathomable beings.
We kicked at them, ran them through with sticks, pummeled them with rocks, all the while, I wove my fanciful yarn. In my most sinister voice, I detailed for my sister the story of how, after dark, these slimy creatures, triggered by the moonlight, would bulge and swell to a humungous size, monstrous and grotesque, hungering for foolhardy campers. A fresh-water jellyfish uprising bent on revenge against those who had dared to harm them. I explained to her, with my eyes wide and intense, if we survived the night, we should all count ourselves lucky.
My sister listened amused, but unconvinced, and she went about the rest of her day unaffected.
I, on the other hand, had told the story so well, so masterfully, I spent the remainder of my evening in a state of lather, prickly with dread.
What if I was right? What if it was all true?
I didn't want to be the main course at a gummy-monster banquet. But darkness was coming, and I was powerless to stop it. Therefore, I went to bed – at about 6 p.m.
Bring it on, mucous demon, if you can find me under my covers.
My one advantage, by hiding in the sheets, was my family members were still up, still fully visible, oblivious, unhidden...the horde would get them first.
I awoke the next morning, alive and intact. Unconsumed. Un-congealed.
All just my crazy imagination. So preposterous. Fffff, I hadn't really believed it, anyway.
But just to be on the safe side, for the rest of that week, I maintained a distended distance from the beach. No reason to push my luck. No need to poke...the blob.
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
I don't know exactly how old I was, but little enough to be amused playing a make believe game of Trick or Treat alone in the family room.
With my plastic, jack-o-lantern bucket in hand, I went door-to-door (couch to end table to coffee table and so on), knocking on invisible doors, buzzing non-existent doorbells.
At each stop, I would go through the prescribed routine with the pretend hostess, begging for unseen candy with the customary “Trick or Treat,” reciting my lines with my most authentic baby talk, “Twick or Tweat.”
I went about my expedition without incident until I arrived at the rocker-recliner house.
The generous, but transparent lady who answered the door offered a choice of candy, “What would you like little girl?”
Still in character, the baby talk babbled from my lips, “I want a sucker.”
Of course, the defining quality of 'baby talk' is that the words aren't spoken clearly or precisely. In fact, sometimes sounds are substituted for other sounds. For instance, sometimes an 's' might come out sounding like a 'th'. But in this scandalous instance, the 's' was substituted with an 'f'.
My mother shot into the family room as if catapulted from the kitchen, her finger wagging. “Don't you ever say that again,” she reprimanded in a loud, screech.
Shocked out my shoes, I spun in a panic, facing her rabidity.
What had I said? What was I to do? How was I to ask for a sugary, hard candy on a stick? Lollipop was an awfully big word for such a little girl. And Tootsie Pop was far too specific. Stifled.
Eh, 's'uck it, just give me the candy cigarettes.
It was several more years until I grasped an understanding of profanity sufficient to recall this episode and reason out what I had uttered – to the great horror of my mother.
I, however, take a depraved pleasure in its prediction of my irreverent future – the mother of all curse words, it turns out, is one of my favorite words to say – the sweet confection of it rolling off my tongue. The taffy-like pull of it. The appeal of its Everlasting Gobstopper assortment of flavors. I'd almost go so far as to call it 'ear candy' but that might be 'Dum Dum'.