A Teacher’s Lament

I spoke with your teacher today,

And this is what she had to say:

Please tell Billy I like him a lot

But not when he licks each tiny spot

Of food off his plate.

It’s just plain gross.

 

It’s not polite to pick your nose

That’s why tissue’s good for blows

Putting snot between his teeth

Makes kids stare beyond belief.

You just don’t do it.

It’s just plain gross.

 

He needs to keep his shoes on his feet

The stench smells like rotten meat.

While in the playground yard

Children find it too hard

To forgive him.

It’s just plain gross.

 

People don’t put their hands on their butts

And scratch until they make big cuts

Blood through the clothes

And a stink up the nose.

It’s just plain gross.

 

 

As far as work, Billy’s losing out.

He wrinkles papers and runs about.

Seldom sits for more than a minute.

Pencils in places where they don’t fit.

He’s failing.

It’s just plain gross.

 

There’s not much more that I can say

Except that you should be on your way

To talk to Billy. tell him I care.

For him I’d go anywhere

To find him help.

He’s not that gross.

A Trying Situation

Jennifer wanted nothing more than to have one good friend. Someone she could rely on to be there for her. Someone who cared for her like no one else.

The problem was that she was the most unpopular kid in school. Dressed in too big jumpers, hand-me-down white blouses and oxford saddle shoes, she was a pariah. Her long hair was always in pigtails or braids, carefully done up by her mother, but not the popular style among girls her age.

How do you make friends when you are so radically different from everyone else? Jennifer didn’t know.

During recess and lunch, Jennifer followed the popular girls around closely enough that she could hear what they talked about. It was gossip, pure and simple. They made fun of everyone that wasn’t them. They laughed at things the teacher said or did. They chaffed at the teasing of boys, yet encouraged them by their suggestive saunters and shortened shirts.

Jennifer knew that she was often the butt of the snide comments, and this hurt, but yet she still wanted to be part of that group.

At home she practiced the walk. She begged and begged for a haircut until her mom relented and let it be shortened to shoulder length. She brushed her hair every night until it shone. In the morning she brushed it again, making sure there were no tangles, twists or poking out strands.

She convinced her dad to let her get new shoes that weren’t oxfords. It took a lot of work, but boy, did she feel happy when he relented! She saved her weekly allowance until she had enough to buy new shoes. It was May by the time her dad drove her to the store, but it didn’t matter. She finally had shoes like all the other girls wore.

There was nothing she could do about the jumpers and blouses. New ones cost too much, plus the year was almost over and she’d need replacements for eighth grade anyway.

Was it enough? Jennifer hoped so. When she walked on the campus in her new shoes with her new hair, she squared her shoulders and smiled at the first popular girl she saw.

The girl snubbed her. It was subtle, true. The girl, Marissa, looked at Jennifer, smirked, then turned and walked away. Not the greeting Jennifer was hoping for.

Tears came to her eyes, which she hastily wiped away before entering the classroom.

Yes, everyone saw her shorter, more stylish hair. She was sure that they also noticed her more modern shoes. But her clothes were still someone else’s. Her jumper was faded and baggy and her blouse off-white with a pixie collar than no one else wore.

Jennifer skulked to her desk and slid onto her seat, her shoulders drooping.

How to be accepted? She didn’t know.

During recess she went into the bathroom. Fortunately none of the popular girls were there. That quickly changed, however.

Jennifer recognized Susan’s voice first. “Did you see Jennifer’s hair? Not in braids or pigtails.”

“Yeah,” another girl said. “I couldn’t believe that she’d cut off her hair.”

“I loved her long hair,” Susan said. “No she looks more like a boy with that horse-face of hers.”

The other girl snorted. “Come on, she’s not that bad looking. She’s fat, but not too fat.”

“What boy would want to date her? Name one.”

The girls were silent for a moment. “Peter Strauss.”

Chuckles filled the room. “He’s just as fat and ugly,” Susan said. “They’d make a great pair.”

Water gushed from the faucets. Paper towels were ripped from the dispenser, the door opened and shut. Only then did Jennifer emerge. She stood before the mirror and checked out her face. Was she ugly? She didn’t think so. True, her cheeks were a bit puffy. She had a dimple when she smiled. Her eyebrows were thick, but not bushy.

She tossed her hair back and tried to picture a boy with the same cut. No names came to mind until she thought of Peter. His hair was long, shoulder length, like hers. Brown like hers. Straight like hers.

She imagined him standing next to her in front of the mirror. He would be taller, his shoulders broader, his neck thicker, but he was also overweight. He stuttered, while she did not. He spoke in a whisper only when forced to respond by the teacher. Jennifer also spoke in a whisper but she did it because she was easily embarrassed.

“Oh, well,” she said as she shrugged and exited the restroom.

Once outside Jennifer looked for the popular girls. They were clustered together near the teacher lunchroom, their usual place. Jennifer thought about walking over there, but then she spotted Peter leaning against the wall outside their classroom.

“Hi,” she said. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he said. “What about you?”

Jennifer shrugged. “Hey, what’s your favorite TV show?”

“American Idol. I like to imagine that it’s me up there.”

“Do you sing?”

“Yeah, but only at home. And at church. What about you?”

Jennifer smiled. “Same with me. I have a radio in my room. I keep it tuned to 97.3 because I like the music they play.”

“That’s my favorite station. Want to come over sometime and we can listen together?”

Jennifer thought about the ramifications. If she palled around with Peter she didn’t stand a chance of ever being friends with the popular girls. On the other hand, there was a real good possibility that she’d never fit in with them anyway. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“How about tomorrow after school? My mom could pick you up.”

“Let’s say Friday. That’ll give me time to ask my parents and get permission. One thing I know is that they’ll want to talk to your parents before then.”

Peter pulled a crumpled paper out of his pants pocket and a pencil from his shirt pocket. He wrote something and then handed the paper to Jennifer. “That’s my number. Write yours at the bottom and tear it off. I’ll ask my mom to call this afternoon.”

When the bell rang, Jennifer was smiling. She had a friend! Her first real friend. Someone who wanted her to come over to his house and hang out. Granted it wasn’t one of the people she’d dreamt of having for a friend, but Peter was a loner like her. Together they’d make an awesome pair.

And that’s all that mattered.

Fitting In

Jeremiah had always hated the first day of school, but it was particularly worse when it was at a new school. He should be used to it by now. As a child of a military parent he’d never stayed more than two years at any one place.

But what do students wear in Vallejo? At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, his last home, everyone wore t-shirts with crazy sayings or movie references. Granted, he was in eighth grade then, a time when kids could still be silly, so things might have changed if he’d stayed there for high school. He’ll never know, though.

But he’s got to be prepared. He has to have the right clothes before orientation, which is tomorrow. If he walks on campus wearing out-of-fashion clothes, his entire academic career will be shot.

“Mom? Can you take me shopping?” he asked when he spotted his mom cleaning the bathroom.

She sat up, brushed hair out of her eyes and said, “What do you need?”

“Clothes.”

“You’ve got plenty of clothes. Why do you need more?”

“I don’t know what kids wear here and the only way to find out before the orientation is to go to the mall. Whatever’s in the stores is what kids will be wearing.”

She sighed. “Let me finish here and then I’ll take you.”

Jeremiah went into the kitchen and fixed himself a peanut butter sandwich. He poured himself some water and took an apple from the bowl. He carried it all to the front room where he turned on the television, shuffled through stations, eventually landing on a baseball game.

“Let’s go,” his mom said several minutes later as she picked up her purse and keys. “We’ve got about an hour before I need to begin dinner.”

Within minutes they were at the outlet mall, one of those that sold discounted designer labels. Jeremiah found two awesome shirts and a pair of shoes at the Nike store, two shirts at Under Armour and one at Adidas.

“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “I didn’t want to look like a dork.”

She smiled as she drove toward their military housing. “You’re not a dork.”

“Anyone can be one if they don’t wear the right clothes.”

At home Jeremiah removed the tags from his new clothes and put them in his drawers. Then he got out his bike and rode around his neighborhood looking for kids his age. He was sure there would be some since this was the family housing section. For the longest time he saw no one, but on a third trip around the block he spotted a couple of teenagers standing in front of one of the units.

Jeremiah stopped next to them. “Hi.”

They stared at him like he was crazy.

“I’m new.”

They snickered. “Yeah, we figured that out as soon as we saw the bike.”

Jeremiah looked from side to side and saw no bikes. Okay. So he’s already discovered one rule here: nobody rides bikes. “Do you go to Fairfield High?”

“Yeah.” The blond haired boy said, “I’m Josh. I’m a sophomore.”

The black haired one said he was called Trevor and he was a freshman.

“So am I,” Jeremiah said. “Are you going to orientation tomorrow?”

“Yeah. It’s required,” Trevor said. “Besides, I’m new here, like you.”

“Do you walk to school?” Jeremiah asked.

“Nah. Our moms are friends now, so they’ll take turns driving us.”

Jeremiah wanted to ask for a ride, but that would be dorky. “Well, I’d better go. Maybe I’ll see you.”

When he got home, he told his mom about meeting the boys. She was happy for him. “The best part?” Jeremiah said, “They were both wearing shirts like my new ones. Now I know I won’t stand out.”

The next day Jeremiah was ready early. He was wearing his new shoes and the Adidas shirt. He felt pretty confident that he would fit in.

They arrived about twenty minutes before the orientation began. In the office she filled out some forms and picked up an information packet. Jeremiah was given his class schedule. Using a map they walked around campus, following his schedule, so that he’d know where to go. Jeremiah knew he could have figured this out on his own, so se was glad when his mom left.

He went into the gym where the first session was being held. Trevor waved to him, so he climbed up the bleachers and sat next to him.

“So,” Trevor said, “let’s compare schedules.”

It turned out that they had PE and English together. Considering that there were eight hundred or so freshman, that was pretty good. “Maybe we can study together,” Trevor said. “I struggle in English but I’m awesome in Algebra.”

“Sure,” Jeremiah said. “That will make it a lot more fun.”

“I’ll ask Josh, but maybe you can join our carpool.”

Jeremiah nodded. “That would be great.”

They stayed together for the rest of orientation, even getting into the same small group led by a senior. When there were breaks they talked about their interests. Trevor played baseball while Jeremiah wanted to be on the football team. Jeremiah liked horror movies but read fantasy. Trevor also liked horror movies and played video games.

By the time the morning was over, Jeremiah knew he had a new best friend. He smiled as he climbed in his mom’s car. “Guess what? I’m going to fit in here just fine.”

The Best Day

Sometimes writing prompts speak to me, giving me ideas of what to write about, but recently I read one which really has me in a quandary.

Of all the days in my life, which one is the best?

I’ve been thinking about this for over a week and I have to admit that I am stuck.

Could it have been the day I received my acceptance letter to USC? That was an awesome day. After all, it meant that I was going to go to college and learn something that forever would change my life. The problem is that I don’t recall exactly how I felt. After all, I was only 17 at the time and so much has happened since then.

After college graduation a series of years went by in which I accomplished a lot of firsts: my first car, my first real job, my first apartment. These all moved me along the path toward independence and all of them made me smile, but were any of them the best? No.

There was the day that I met Mike at the IRS office. I was intrigued by his blue eyes, ready smile and kind demeanor, but it took quite a while for us to jell, to become a unit. The day he proposed was an awesome one. The problem is that I don’t recall the details. I do remember that he asked my dad for permission to marry me, but that’s it.

The wedding day was a spectacular one. Talk about life-changing! Wow! I went from being daughter to wife in less than an hour. And I was so scared that I almost passed out at the altar. I remember smiling through the reception and being so excited about the honeymoon that I could hardly wait for it to begin. On that day my life changed forever, so I would rank it up there among the best days of my life.

The thing is, though, that from then on I achieved so much, changed so much, and reveled in so much, that there are many defining moments in my life.

I remember when I found out I was pregnant with each of our kids. Now those were special days! Each time I glowed with happiness and pride. And when they were born, I could hardly contain myself even though I was terrified of holding such tiny, frail little beings.

Each time a child accomplished something, even something as tiny as lifting a head, I could hardly wait to show Mike. Jump forward to swimming on a team, playing soccer or baseball or softball or learning gymnastics or working with clay or learning to play an instrument and the “best” days suddenly multiply into hundreds.

There were graduations from eighth grade, high school and college. There were the births of my many grandkids, each unique in their own way.

The purchasing of homes, beginning with ours. I beamed with happiness on the day we took possession! Our house! Which became a home for our kids. And then the joy I felt when each of our kids bought their homes! Wow!

Getting my first teaching job filled me with joy. Granted it was a tiny, part time job teaching preschool at minimum wage, but I was in a classroom. My classroom. Fulfilling a dream I’d had since first grade.

When I jumped to third grade, my heart skipped a beat. This was it! My goal had been reached. But I didn’t stop there. I kept exploring and reaching and trying out new things and learning new things and going from job to job, each time looking for the place where I truly belonged and then I found it at the high school. I became a Special Education teacher working with learning disabled students. A hard job, but rewarding.

My supervisor noticed my hard work and I got promoted to the equivalent of Department Chair. Wow! Think of the jump, from part time preschool to Dept. Chair! I walked around campus with a smile on my face. I had reached my pinnacle, the highest I could possibly go, and I was proud. That was another good day.

Time passed. I aged. I got tired and all I could think about was retiring. When that time arrived four years ago, that was another personal best. I counted off the days until the one when I turned in my keys and walked away. I left knowing that I had done the best job that I could have. That at no time had I failed to fulfill my job requirements, and that, in fact, I usually exceeded them.

As a retiree I continue to have “best” days. Each day spent with my husband is a great one. Each time we go for a walk around the neighborhood, I rejoice that we are capable of doing so. That we enjoy the simple act of being together.

We have traveled quite a bit since retirement. Those are all good days as well. I especially love visiting with my grown children and my grandchildren. Each of those trips is unique and filled with joy. Each is the “best” because of the time I get to spend with family.

What it boils down to is that I cannot single out one day that stands above all others. I have been blessed with so many awesome days, so many unique experiences that I cannot definitively state that this one, this day, is the best.

Instead I revel in the fact that each morning that I open my eyes, each breath that I breathe, each step that I take, counts as my best.

 

Child’s Play

Easy, breezy, light and freezy

squeezy, sleazy, sometimes squeaky

Fluttery, buttery, I’m not nuttery

Cattery, splattery, but no flattery

Speedily, bleedily, just not greedily

Eerily, blearily, eyes are tearily

Quakery, shakery, give me cakery

Flakery, bakery, do not takery

Snuggle me, bungle me, don’t tungle me

Spangle me, dangle me, please jangle me

Laughy, gaffy, just plain daffy

Play with words every dayfy

 

Holiday Blues

What do you tell the children

who find no quarter under their

pillows – the missing gift of the

tooth fairy – when the proper

homage has been paid?

 

What do you tell the sad little girl

whose stocking is empty

Christmas morn – after leaving the

last cookie and a small cup of

milk – the thanks for the Santa

who never came?

 

What do you tell the young boy

who has no basket to leave on

the table – decorated with colorful

paper eggs and filled with shredded

newspaper – and all that’s inside are

a few stale jelly beans?

 

What do you tell the teenager

whose fifteenth birthday came and

went – with no party, no gifts, no

happy times – to mark the majestic

coming of age?

 

What do you tell the lonely ones

who never get a heart-shaped card

or candies – a sign of friendship and

love – who had only wished that just

one person would care?

 

What do you tell the children

who have no masks, no quirky

costumes – in celebration of All

Hollow’s Eve – and so can’t knock

and threaten tricks?

 

What do you tell the little ones

who have no feast to cram into

their mouths – in honor of those who

survived – and so bite into stale

peanut butter sandwiches?

 

What do you tell all the unloved

children, young and old, who rise

day after day – wanting nothing more

than a gentle hug – and receive

harsh words instead?

 

For some children have everything

they could ever want while others

have nothing but emptiness – no

hope for more – the rejoicing washes

over, leaving not a drop of joy.

 

Let us cry for them.

Fearful Memories

She came to her mother in the night

smelling of sweat, fear and sour breath

with hair tangled into miserable knots

crying about the monsters plaguing her dreams

which resembled all too closely

the boys who teased her mercilessly at school

even though Mom had complained to the teacher,

begging her to stop the torture.

The girl snuggled next to her mother’s side

head resting on the chest

arms tightly gripping her mother’s waist

and cried until all tears were gone.

her mom thought about sending her daughter

back to her own bed

back to the darkness where nightmares ran free,

but instead cradled her daughter and tried

to erase the painful memories.