Sunday, February 21, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Tales from the 4th Grade

One of the popular tools among bloggers these days is the "7 Quick Takes." It is writing a little stream of consciousness when there is no one thought that merits a post of its own. So I am giving it a try......

1. My family moved from a small Oklahoma town to Pittsburgh before I started 4th grade. It was my dad, mom, me and my one year old brother. Dad, working for the Federal Aviation Administration, was starting a three year assignment which included a school year in the graduate program of Carnegie Mellon followed by a two year work assignment in the Washington, D.C. offices of the FAA. It was a big culture change for our family. It is probably the main reason I don't speak with an Oklahoma accent.

2. On the day we moved in to our rent house, I took my brother for a walk, wanting to give him and my parents a break as they continued to unpack. I am sure they told me not to go far. I headed out, pushing the stroller through the new neighborhood. My idea was to take a right turn at every intersection, then when ready to go back, I reversed course and took a left turn at every street. I still don't know why that didn't work. Maybe it would have, eventually. I don't know how long we were gone, but my dad drove around and found us and brought us home. I got spanked, I think for scaring my parents.

3. I was very excited to start the 4th grade. On the first day of school, about mid-morning, the teacher announced we would be going to the lavatory in a few minutes. I thought she was referring to a science room or something. I whispered to a girl sitting next to me, asking if we should take anything with us. She said you could take whatever you wanted. The class lined up and headed out, I with two pencils in my pocket, just in case. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the bathrooms!

My school in Pittsburgh was more serious than my school in Oklahoma. The school day was longer and recess shorter. I loved it. And in the gym there was a rope attached to the ceiling, just like the nemesis of the cartoon character Funky Winkerbean. We had to try to climb it, all the way, to the top. After many months of trials, I finally made it. I just wanted to stay, to admire the view after all that hard work. In the current world of "safety first," my kids never got to face the challenge of a rope climb. Sad.

4. Around Thanksgiving, when I heard the moms talk about food and menus, I would hear the mention of "peecan" pie. I was silently horrified as to what it could be. When we traveled any length of time in the car with my brother, we had a pee can with us for his convenience. In the 1960's there wasn't a gas station with a bathroom on every corner and my toddler brother did not have a "wait" button. Anyway, it wasn't until months later that I realized that a "peecan" pie was a "pe-cahn" pie. My mom is well known for her great homemade pecan pies.

5. This was the year my childhood eczema exploded, probably exacerbated by the cold climate. Often I had a crusty, itchy, pink rash all around my mouth. There were lots of doctor visits and creams and shots. The doctors thought certain foods might make it worse and said I should avoid chocolate, nuts and carbonated drinks. I was very bitter. And eventually grew out of the eczema. I continue to cling to my chocolate covered nuts and Coke.

6. When we returned to Oklahoma for a Christmas visit, we drove "straight through." My parents picked me up early from school to hit the road. The whole school was getting to watch the movie "Heidi" as a holiday treat. I argued, to no avail, that we should leave a little later so I could see the ending. I finally got to see the end of the movie many years later on TV.

The car trip was awesome, though, driving through the night. Stuff was packed in the floor of the back seat so that the back was more like a bed. We didn't have to worry about seat belts because there weren't any. I slept on the back dash of the car, it was roomy enough for a nine year old. I could lie there and watch the stars and I had a fabulous view of that Gateway to the West, the St. Louis Arch, lit up and sparkling all by itself in the middle of the night.

7. I battled with the Tooth Fairy during the spring of 4th grade. The Tooth Fairy had been quite generous in our otherwise modest home. I would always find a whole dollar under my pillow. Once I figured that out, I began to hoard my pulled teeth. During 2nd grade I had some baby teeth that just would not come out. I knocked one out when I fell off the trapeze bar of my swing set. The other three were later pulled by the dentist. Three teeth at once! I decided to save them. Later on, I had to have eight teeth pulled - four baby teeth and four permanent teeth that had no place to go. I saved them, too.

I had accumulated fifteen teeth by the spring of 4th grade. That's when I decided I wanted a pet, and received permission from my mom to buy a bird, when I had enough money to pay for it myself. I'm sure my mom thought herself very clever, saying "yes," but really saying "no," thinking I would tire of raising the money. But she didn't remember that I had fifteen teeth in the bank! I put all the teeth under my pillow that night and the next night and the next night...... I finally mentioned out loud that the Tooth Fairy had not come and it had been almost two weeks. The next morning I found $15 under my pillow. Amazing! And I bought a canary.

When I'm old and senile, living on the long-ago memories, 4th grade will be fun to do over again! I'm already smiling.

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