Mamacita says: The community college is one of the best things that ever happened to higher education. Go ahead – turn up your nose and be all snobby about it – but it’s true and you know it.
So many of my students are overcoming tremendous odds to be in school right now. They’ve got families and mortgages and spouses/partners, some of whom disapprove of the whole “college” thing; they’ve got needy parents and in-laws and overdue bills and a sad lack of daycare options. On top of it all, most of my students have no job right now, and the defunct factories and Workforce are both being poopy about promises they’d previously made concerning tuition and books and actually coming through with things because education is the key to the future and you can count on us to back you up.
And yet, most of them show up, day after day or night after night, homework done, papers written, knowing exactly which page we’re on and ready to begin again.
The majority of my students are fine, hardworking, upstanding people who genuinely want to better themselves: not just so they might get a better job at some future time, but also just so they’ll be, well, BETTER.
Sure, there are some clunkers. In any group there will always be losers. But the vast majority of my students this semester are prime. In their prime, and prime.
I love a mixed-age group in an academic setting. The young have so much to offer the older, especially older students who are not responsible for raising them. The older students have so much to offer the younger students, especially since (see above). I firmly believe that all young people need older people to be mentors, people who are not related and who demonstrate love and friendship and genuine liking that are not required by blood. In a community college classroom, there is a healthy mix of ethnicity, age, sex/gender, and you name it – it’s sitting there, notebook ready, pen in hand. Usually also with cell phone silenced but turned on, because adult students have responsibilities beyond that classroom, a fact which many instructors and institutions choose not to acknowledge.
There is no shame in working a low-end, minimum-wage service sector job – don’t misunderstand me. NO SHAME in that. But I do hope my students, many of whom are working such jobs, understand that this college degree, even more than many four-year university degrees, will open the door to better jobs.
Yes, that’s what I said. Ofttimes, a community college degree will open more doors than a fancy university degree will open.
Community college degrees represent real life. They represent practical, actual knowledge that the world not only needs; it requires. I am not referring only to the many awesome and necessary skills that the world needs, truly NEEDS, such as air conditioning/heating/ the many vocational degrees that represent real abilities, nursing, etc; the community college offers many of the same academic classes that the university offers. Students can take all kinds of math, from algebra all the way up to finite and calculus, and every math in between. Students can get almost all of their English credits at the community college, with many of the same professors they would have at the expensive university. Psychology, sociology, philosophy, most of the sciences. . . . the community college is a COLLEGE. And we will gladly welcome students the university rejects, knowing that most of such students just needed a helping hand to get them well on their way to the same and often higher standards met as the student who had the money to go to university.
I am not in any way putting down university; that’s where I got all my degrees and I loved it. But after twelve years as a professor in the community college, I have come to understand that THIS is where it’s at. This is where the groove thang resides.
Look closely and analytically and lovingly at your child. Higher education is a requirement for almost every job that pays enough for basic survival, but there is more than one kind of higher education. Explore them with your child. Check out all of the possibilities and opportunities. I highly recommend a year or two at the community college; those credits will transfer to the university. Community college costs so much less than university; those savings will also transfer! Some students need a little time to learn without stress. Some students have been out of school for so long that they, too, need some time to get back in the learning mode.
In a community college classroom, students will come from all kinds of backgrounds. There will be a mix of ages from 17 to 90. There will be all kinds of lifestyles, all sorts of ethnicities, all manner of appearances. The community college classroom is a rainbow of color, of wonderful everything, of wonderfulness in general.
The community college is one of the best things that has ever happened to education. I will fight you on this one. I will win.
I will win, because it is true. It is wonderful, and it is true.
Oh, I knew the woman who bore my mother and my aunt and my uncles, but I never knew the woman she really was. I only knew the woman she became after the stroke.
Before the stroke, Ruth Grogan was a vibrant, vital, witty, highly intelligent woman who laughed, read, told stories, married (she actually HAD to get married, as they called it back then when a woman had sex before marriage and got knocked up) had four children, cooked, sewed, maintained a home, drove a car, and was just generally a fairly typical, very cool woman of her time. My grandfather worked for the railroad and was gone all week; he came home on weekends, bringing his laundry. All the rest of the time, my grandmother did it all: cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, etc. And she did it by herself.
Dora Ruth Grogan as a young woman
The fact that she had a driver’s license was pretty cool – not many women drove a car back then. Ruth Grogan was an innovator. She saw no reason she couldn’t do something she wanted to do just because she was a woman. She just did it.
Ruth Grogan and friend: flappers
My grandmother was the youngest of four daughters. Her mother died when Ruth was three years old, and her father let relatives raise her and her five-year-old sister, while he kept the two older sisters with him. Pop, as my mother called him, never remarried. On his deathbed, he talked about his wife. Love never dies.
The Hilton sisters: Ruth, Edna, Mabel, and Mary
So Ruth was raised without a mother. Her aunt was kind to her, but she wasn’t Ruth’s mother. The lack of a role model didn’t prevent Ruth from being a good mother herself; some things are instinctive.
Edward and Ruth Grogan, and their sons James and Larry
Ruth Grogan with her two daughters, Reva and Phyllis
After the stroke, Ruth was a shell of herself. She was trapped inside her head. We will never know if the woman she really was, was still there somewhere, because the woman she became, after the stroke, was NOT Ruth.
Her speech was backwards and ridiculous. My cousin Carol and I, once we got old enough to pretty much take care of ourselves, used to stay all night with her every weekend we were able. Every morning, Mamaw woke us up by standing at the foot of the stairs and calling up to us “Carol, Janie, breakfast what?” We would reply, “Bacon, Mamaw.” When we went downstairs to the kitchen, we would find bacon. Just bacon.
She listened to the radio avidly and whenever she heard a familiar name she would say “Your daddy him knowed.” (referring to our grandfather, who had been killed a few years previously.) (That’s another very interesting story.) Mahalia Jackson’s singing made her laugh hysterically – Mahalia sang the sign-off song on Channel 4 after Nightmare Theater, and Carol and I looked forward to the singing because we loved to see Mamaw laugh like that. Neither of us was allowed to watch Nightmare Theater at home because it was scary, but at Mamaw’s house we made our own rules. Mamaw stayed up with us and did not go to bed herself until we did. She loved to hear us talk and laugh, and once in a while she would chime in with a comment that probably made sense to her but was often just out of the blue.
Sammy Terry, played by Robert Carter, hosted Nightmare Theater
She could cook a little, read a little, clean the house a little, etc. But none of her grandchildren ever knew the woman she really was. When Carol and I were at her house, she fixed us each a hamburger every day for lunch, and Carol and I made french fries and macaroni and cheese. When we were at Mamaw’s house, we did what we wanted to do and we ate what we wanted to eat and we went wherever we wanted to go. It was a kind of freedom I’d never dreamed of having – away from my younger siblings and in a neighborhood not my own. I still dream about it.
Dora Ruth Hilton Grogan
Mamaw’s child-raising days were over, and she never asked us where we were going or where we’d been. We rode our bicycles all over town, bought comic books and SweeTarts, made runny fudge which we dyed green just to experiment a little and because we could, played games, spray-painted everything we could reach, dared each other to go into the huge dark creepy closets and basements, and just generally had fun and freedom and absolute control over our lives. What kid could ask for more?
SweeTarts, in the foil package
As Mamaw got older, it became more difficult for her to live alone. She came to live with my parents for a while; then she and her son, my Uncle Larry, shared an apartment for just a little while. It soon became obvious that she needed a safe environment with people to care for her needs 24/7. Mom tried again to take care of her, but her needs had moved beyond a single person’s ability. She entered a nursing home, where she kept ’em all jumping with her antics. Ruth Grogan was a character, and nobody who knew her was ever able to forget it. Give her a quarter, and she was on the pay phone calling somebody, and she could talk, in her funny stilted way, for hours if nobody stopped her. She loved to embroider, and I think all of her granddaughters have pillowcases that she embroidered.
Mamaw in the apartment, doing her embroidery
When she died, my first thought was, now she can be her real self again. All those years of being trapped inside her head, of the stilted speech, the awkward life, and now she’s herself again.
I wish I had known Ruth Grogan when she was her true self. Everyone who did know her says she was awesome. When I look at my mother, I have no trouble at all believing that.
Carol and I loved those weekends at Mamaw’s house. We loved the freedom. We loved “playing on the phone.” (Is your refrigerator running?) We loved the french fries and the macaroni and cheese and the fudge. We loved going to Crowder’s Drugstore every half hour to buy candy and comic books. We loved the playground equipment behind Stalker School. We loved the squeaky porch swing. We loved the garish wallpaper and the old sheets with laundry detergent powder in the creases. We loved sitting on the couch watching Nightmare Theater, with our feet up so the monsters under the couch couldn’t grab us and drag us under to devour us or take us to another dimension. We loved sleeping upstairs in the big bed, so blisteringly hot that even the ancient fan couldn’t help us – we were afraid to turn it on anyway because it was so old we were afraid the house would catch fire. We loved looking at my uncle’s, um, “magazines.” We loved being scared in that house; it was a safe scared and we knew it even while we squealed and pretended to be traumatized. I loved riding my bike TO Mamaw’s house; it was a route mommies of today would never in a million years allow their fragile snowflakes to make: under the train trestle, up and down really steep hills. . . .
I’m glad my kids got to meet her, even for a little while.
Mamaw Grogan and baby Andy
I’ve been thinking about my grandmother quite often, lately. I really wish I’d known her, the real grandmother, the actual person who had been so alive and real and herself.
With Ruth Grogan, it’s always before the stroke and after the stroke. I only knew her after the stroke.
But she was still pretty cool. “Carol, Janie, breakfast what?” “Your daddy him knowed.”
Another piece of my childhood, shared with all of you.
Mamacita says: We shopped by putting it on the bill. Grocery shopping with money? I don’t understand. Didn’t everybody just put it on the bill?
I didn’t know how to shop for groceries until I was well into my twenties. What do you think about that one?
We didn’t NEED no stinkin’ baby seat in our shopping cart. The baby sat with the milk and the baby LIKED IT.
We lived just a few blocks from a small local grocery store/hamburger joint. There were four of us kids. Our mom didn’t shop for the week; she shopped for the meal. With four kids, she never had to run out of anything because there was always a kid handy to send to “the store” for whatever it was she needed. Often, a kid carrying a bottle of ketchup in a brown paper bag from the store would meet a sibling on her/his way TO the store for bread. One of us kids went to the store at least once a day for just a few things, or maybe even just one. We never took money; we put it on the bill. Every week, my parents would go to the store themselves and settle up.
Put it on the bill, please.
Mom said once that after all her kids were grown and gone, she had a hard time shopping for groceries, herself. She had to remember that SHE had to go to the store to get it; there were no more little kids to send, six times a day. 🙂 Mom learned how to shop for a week, too. We’re never too old.
I put a couple of Superman comic books on the bill once. ONCE. My younger siblings used to put watermelon sticks on the bill and nobody ever took THEIR hide off.
The hamburger joint connected to the store was like something out of a little kid’s dream. You could get a hamburger, fries, and small coke, all for thirty cents, with sliced dill pickles in a little white paper cup. Dad always got a chocolate nut sundae and gave us each a bite. No restaurant has ever put enough mustard on a hamburger for me, so, like Dad, I would take my hamburger in hand and walk back behind the lunch counter to where the condiments (shut up, bad spellers!) were kept and load more cheap yellow goodness onto the bun. Then I’d take mine back to the booth, get Dad’s, and do the same for him. That hamburger place was heavenly, that’s all there was to it. As a family, we used to walk there, usually with a younger sibling in a stroller, and partake of hamburger bliss.
At most lunch counters back then, the dime coke was almost too big to finish. We usually ordered the nickel coke.
The dime coke was too big, but the nickel coke was juuuuust right.
In the evening, or on Saturdays, the teenagers would fill up the hamburger joint and play music on the jukebox. I thought they were all adults and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to sing along to “Sugar Shack.”
When I got married, we rented a tiny house way out in the country. We were buried in snow and ice, and I had to learn how to really shop for groceries, a week’s worth at a time, or even more. It took a while, but I finally caught on. There were no little brothers or sisters to send in my place, and we didn’t live in town so nobody could walk or ride a bike to the store for a few forgotten items. We were literally buried in snow, so we had to shop carefully in case even more snow fell; often, we were actually trapped in our own house. Nobody could go anywhere. I had to learn to make lists and add to them whenever I ran out of something. No more random runs (and I do mean runs) to the store. Shopping for groceries was now a serious thing.
If you’ve seen me lately, you’ll know that stocking up on food is no longer a problem. Paying for it, maybe, but making sure there’s some on hand, no.
I dream sometimes about those nickel cokes and that wonderful grocery store and that absolutely awesome hamburger joint, but I always wake up old. It’s a bit of a bummer.
Mamacita says: No matter what the weather might be where you live, today is the Glorious Fourth. It’s not the weather that makes it glorious.
Fireworks: so beautiful!
1. America, thou half-brother of the world, with something good and bad of every land. –Philip James Bailey
2. America is the country where you can buy a lifetime supply of aspirin for one dollar and use it up in two weeks. –John Barrymore
3. The real democratic American idea is, not that every man shall be on a level with every other man, but that every man shall have liberty to be what God made him, without hindrance. –Henry Ward Beecher
4. Of all the nations in the world, the United States was built in nobody’s image. It was the land of the unexpected, or unbounded hope, of ideals, of quests for an unknown perfection. –Daniel J. Boorstin
5. I would rather have a nod from an American than a snuffbox from an emperor. –Lord Byron
6. Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. –Dwight D. Eisenhower
7. If we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green. If we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t. –William Faulkner
8. The genius of the American system is that we have created extraordinary results from plain old ordinary people. –Phil Gramm
9. Ours is the only country deliberately founded on a good idea. –John Gunther
10. For this is what America is all about. It is the uncrossed desert and the unclimbed ridge. It is the star that is not reached and the harvest that is sleeping in the unplowed ground. –Lyndon B. Johnson
Amber waves of grain and majestic purple mountains
11. The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned to advertising copy. –Louis Kronenberger
12. The trouble with this country is that there are too many people going about saying “the trouble with this country is. . . .” –Sinclair Lewis
13. I feel most at home in the United States, not because it is intrinsically a more interesting country, but because no one really belongs there any more than I do. We are all there together in its wholly excellent vacuum. –Wyndham Lewis
14. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate. Being here in America doesn’t make you an American. Being born here in America doesn’t make you an American. –Malcolm X
15. America is like one of those old-fashioned six-cylinder truck engines that can be mssing two sparkplugs and have a broken flywheel and have a crankshaft that’s 5,000 millimeters off fitting properly, and two bad ball-bearings, and still runs. We’re in that kind of situation. We can have substantial parts of the population committing suicide and still run and look fairly good. –Thomas McGuane
16. Double, no triple, our troubles and we’d still be better off than any other people on earth. It is time that we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. –Ronald Reagan
17. America is a great country, but you can’t live in it for nothing. –Will Rogers
18. I sometimes think that the saving grace of America lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are possessed of two great qualities – a sense of humor and a sense of proportion. –Franklin D. Roosevelt
19. Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy. –Margaret Thatcher
20. The biggest difference between ancient Rome and the USA is that in Rome the common man was treated like a dog. In America he sets the tone. This is the first country where the common man could stand erect. –I.f. Stone
21. On 16 September 1985, when the Commerce Department announced that the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire died. –Gore Vidal
22. America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up. –Oscar Wilde
23. No, the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible. I tell you – he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming superman. –Israel Zangwill
24. You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else. –Winston Churchill
25. Americans have different ways of saying things. They say “elevator,” we say “lift”. . . they say “President,” we say “stupid psychopathic git.” –Alexai Sayle
26. We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it. –Dave Barry
27 We can have no “50-50” allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an american at all. –Theodore roosevelt
28. Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half. –Unknown
29. All great change in America begins at the dinner table. –Ronald Reagan
30. I don’t measure America by its achievements but by its potential. –Shirley Chisholm
Betsey Ross and the American flag
31. I just want to say this. I want to say it gently but I want to say it firmly: there is a tendency for the world to say to America, “the big problems of the world are yours; you go and sort them out.” and then to worry when America wants to sort them out. –Tony Blair
32. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. –Bill Clinton
33. America’s one of the finest country anyone ever stole. –Bobcat Goldthwaite
34. America is the greatest, freest, and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world. –Dinesh D’Souza
35. America has never been an empire. We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused – preferring greatness to power and justice to glory. –George W. Bush
36. This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do. –Jack Kerouac
37. I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason: I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. –James Arthur Baldwin
38. America’s future will be determined by the home and the school. the child becomes largely what he is taught; hence, we must watch what we teach, and how we live. –Jane Addams
39. American consumers have no proble with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it. –Dave Barry
40. It cound probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress. –Mark Twain
41. I think the most un-American thing you can say is, “You can’t say that.” –Garrison Keillor
42. I believe America’s best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear. –John Kerry
43. Americans have more food to eat than any other people and more diets to keep them from eating it. –Unknown
44. What’s right about America is that although we have a mess of problems, we have great capacity – intellect and resources – to do something about them. –Henry Ford
45. America is a tune. It must be sung together. –Gerald Stanley Lee
46. What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate balance between freedom “to” and freedom “from.” –Marilyn vos Savant
47. When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect. –Adlai Stevenson
48. How often we fail to realize our good fortune in living in a country where happiness is more than a lack of tragedy. –Paul Sweeney
49. This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in. –Theodore Roosevelt
50. Some Americans need hyphens in their names, because only part of them has come over; but when the whole man has come over, heart and thought and all, the hyphen drops of its own weight out of his name. –Woodrow Wilson
Our American Constitution
51. We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls. –Robert J. McCracken
52. What we need are critical lovers of America – patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it. –Hubert H. Humphrey
53. We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights. –Felix Frankfurter
54. A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government. –Edward Abbey
55. Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. –John Quincy Adams
56. It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. –Dick Cheney
57. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. –Calvin Coollidge
58. True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else. –Clarence Darrow
59. Of all the supervised conditions for life offered man, those under U S A’s constitution have proved the best. Wherefore, be sure when you start modifying, corrupting or abrogating it. –Martin H. Fischer
60. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. –Abraham Lincoln
Washington Crossing the Delaware
My country, ’tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.
My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills,
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet Freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.
Our glorious Land to-day,
‘Neath Education’s sway,
Soars upward still.
Its hills of learning fair,
Whose bounties all may share,
behold them everywhere
On vale and hill!
Thy safeguard, Liberty,
The school shall ever be,
Our Nation’s pride!
No tyrant hand shall smite,
While with encircling might
All here are taught the Right
With Truth allied.
Beneath Heaven’s gracious will
The stars of progress still
Our course do sway;
In unity sublime
To broader heights we climb,
Triumphant over Time,
God speeds our way!
Grand birthright of our sires,
Our altars and our fires
Keep we still pure!
Our starry flag unfurled,
The hope of all the world,
In peace and light impearled,
God hold secure!
–Samuel F. Smith
And now, tradition compels me to watch Independence Day again. It’s one of my favorite movies.
Mamacita says: I don’t know why I’ve been wallowing in nostalgia lately, but I might as well go the whole route and talk about the day I became an adult. This has nothing to do with the day I grew up, because I’m still waiting on that ship, but I can tell you quite specifically – and, unfortunately, quite graphically, about the day I became an adult. Well, sort of.
Wallowing in nostalgia. . . .
Fresh out of college, and still believing all the malarky that was in my textbooks, I entered the high school feeling like a grown-up. This lasted until all my old teachers started greeting me, and, oh my gosh, asking me to call them by their first names now that we were colleagues.
“Call me Helen.” “Call me Valera.” “You can call me Byron now.” “Please, call me Pat.”
I couldn’t. The level of fear respect was still so high that to call these people anything that didn’t include a title was beyond my comprehension. These nice people had been my teachers. When I saw them, I turned into that little shy student who was afraid to go to class without my homework completed finished. These people were the bosses of me. To have them suddenly become colleagues and want to eat lunch with me and ask my opinion about curriculum was mind-boggling.
I did get duty on THAT hall – the one that housed THAT staircase. You know, the staircase that led up to a stairwell and nothing else. The one that always smelled like pot. Not that I would know. But the thing was, my old teachers didn’t know, and they assumed I would. I am still not sure how I feel about that.
But I did it. I did everything I was told to do, and by golly, I did it well. But call these nice people by their first names? I was still getting used to them HAVING first names.
I was filled with respect. . . and fear.
Also, whenever a student called ME by a title, I got the giggles. I hadn’t yet made the big crossover, you know, to the OTHER SIDE OF THE DESK. That took several years. I mean, the first time I chaperoned a dance, students asked me to dance and I DID. Mistake. But I digress.
Still on that first day of official adulthood, I was trying to navigate the huge new building my old high school was now using. Schedules be damned, the brand new building still wasn’t quite ready to be populated, but that never deters school corporations from opening right up anyway; after all, it’s just kids, not voters PEOPLE.
In other words, the stairs had no banisters and the restrooms were not labeled yet.
A sign would have helped.
I could deal with the banisters, but the restrooms were important; when I have to really, really “go,” I look pregnant. By mid-afternoon, any stranger would have taken me for eight-and-a-half-months, so I decided to take my chances and run for the nearest one before someone called an ambulance and rushed me to obstetrics.
I peeked inside the unlabeled room and the coast was clear. I went into a stall and did my bidness. When I emerged, ten pounds lighter and with a flat stomach (which I really miss. . . .) I noticed for the first time that one wall was covered with urinals. Standing at two of the urinals were two of my former teachers. Two of my former male teachers.
The wall was lined with urinals.
I was in the wrong restroom.
“You might as WELL call us by our first names, now, Janie,” said one of them.
I ran away and sucked my thumb in the corner for a while, and then I emerged, all grown up and unafraid. Absolutely an adult, and unafraid of the world.
Here’s why, and I’ve never confessed this to a living soul until now.
Anyone with a penis that little was not to be feared.
I was forced to do stuff like this for over twenty years and I hated every second of it.
Do you hear me? Every. second. of. it.
I stood outside in the pouring rain and the falling snow and the freezing toe-numbing cold and the blistering heat, taking tickets and selling popcorn and saying things like “Go!” and “Jump!” and “ Oh shit golly whillikers, was I supposed to start the clock before they started doing that?” I was given a score sheet with no instructions. I was given chalk with no instructions. I was given measuring tapes but I wasn’t told what to measure. I was given large sheets of paper and big magic markers with no instructions. I was given a stopwatch; what was it for? I was given remote controls that had something to do with big electric neon things with numbers that made the crowd yell at me, with no instructions. I was put in charge of outdoor things involving stupid costumes uniforms and weird shoes and rules that I didn’t know. I was put in CHARGE of these things.
I wasn’t asked to help out. I was ordered to be there. I had no choice.
Nobody told me how these little games were played. Nobody told me where to stand, or what to write down, or who’s on first. I only knew about “I don’t know.” And I wasn’t sure where third base was.
Something I do know is that a lot of teachers quit the profession because of this kind of thing.
Funny, isn’t it, that we were all required to ‘do our part’ in areas such as this, but if a teacher asked for some help at a concert or play or dance, that teacher got a lot of blank stares and no office backup whatsoever. Sometimes, people laughed.
During those last few years at the public school, teachers were no longer required to do all the athletic gruntwork; what a reeee-leeef.
Did I mention that I hated every microsecond of it? Did I mention that I’m still bitter? Did I mention that the very thought of some of those ‘coaches’ and parents makes me want to scream and yell and throw things?
I will admit that I was forced to run the clock at a basketball game only once. I was so terrible at it, after fifteen minutes NOBODY knew what the score was. We narrowly avoided a riot, in fact.
It would have helped if I’d known the rules, and what all those strange noises and gestures meant. I mean, what did they expect? I avoided gymnasiums like the plague, normally. I don’t even like the way they smell.
So yeah, I messed that game up, royally. But I didn’t know the rules. I didn’t know how to do it. They made me do it anyway. Oh, I know I’m probably the only person in the world who didn’t know how these things were done, but I knew how to do a lot of other things; why couldn’t they let me do those and let sportsy people work scoreboards and measure jumps and stuff?
On the bright side – it was shiny bright, as far as I was concerned – they never made me work a basketball scoreboard again. What a break for me. I suspect it was a break for everybody concerned.
If I’d only known that was how to get out of it, I wouldn’t have tried so hard at all the other sports things they forced me to help out at, because I did try. I tried really hard. I just wasn’t interested. I resented being required to do these things.
I didn’t go to university for a million years just to stand outside in the cold and sell M&M’s, or to measure how far a kid jumped in sand that had been pooped in by every cat in the county.
Let their parents do that. They’re the ones who cared about it, anyway. I didn’t. Let them yell at each other, instead of me.
All of my heart and soul and attention and life was directed at those same kids; it was just aimed elsewhere.
But you know, I wouldn’t have minded as much if the joy had been equitable. As in, “You help me with this concert, and I’ll help you with your little outdoor game.”
Since it wasn’t set up that way, I agree with the cats: poop on it all.