Saturday, August 22, 2015

No One is Perfect

I love to hear stories about when my mom was a little girl, especially stories about her experiences when she was in school, so I am really excited that Zeus and I are going to go to be going to obedience school.  Mom said that I don’t really need to go but that it would be fun for me to be with other puppies; “Zeus, she said, is a different story.”  Every time someone opens the door Zeus takes the opportunity to run out and see what is going on in the neighborhood.  She said it isn’t that he is a bad puppy but that some obedience training would be good for him and keep him from getting into situations that aren’t safe for him.

On the first morning of school, when we were getting ready to go, mom was brushing our hair and telling us to listen to the teacher and mind what she told us to do.  “Zeus,” she said, “you especially need to listen to the teacher and follow her instructions.”  “Mom,” I said a little self righteously, “Will Zeus get in trouble if he doesn’t mind?”  “Well,” mom said, “I think that Zeus will learn that it is in his best interest and in the interest of his safety to listen to his teacher.” Being a little full of myself for being the good kid I said, “I will mind and not get into trouble just like you did when you were in school.”

“None of us are perfect Zena,” said mom. Zena responded, “I know you never got into trouble but wanted to be kind to other kids like you did with the DuBells.  I want to grow up to be just like you.”  Zeus gave me a dirty look and gave a little growl, making it clear that I was making him a little sick being so goody goody.  

Mom’s brow was furrowed and she looked like she was remembering something not so pleasant from her past.  She said quietly, as if the memory was still a little painful, “I did get into trouble once and I have never forgotten it.  We don’t have to leave for an hour, so why don’t you sit here beside me on the sofa and I’ll tell you the story.  We snuggled up to her waiting with great anticipation to hear this most unexpected story; we couldn’t imagine her getting into trouble at school.

I lived across the street from Mt Pleasant grade school when I was in the sixth grade and could have walked up the block and crossed the street at the cross walk and walked straight up the stairs to the front door and it would have been a two minute walk to school.  That was very boring and uneventful and I much preferred to leave early and go through the winding paths in the Scotch Broom and enter through the side door of the school.  I loved the color of the golden yellow blossoms of the Scotch Broom and there were the most vivid large orange spiders that lived there.  I loved to see the sunlight coming down through that canopy of lush green foliage, illuminating the golden blooms and shining through the translucence of those gloriously brilliant orange spiders.  That was before I was afraid of spiders. In those days being tardy to school was a semi serious offense but sometimes I was so lost in the glory of my special fairyland that I lost track of time and had to run as fast as I could from the end of the tunnel to the side door of the school to get to my seat before the tardy bell rang.

There were no spiders or blossoms in the tunnel the day I got into trouble because there had been a big snowstorm and the tunnel had been turned into a sparkling fairyland.  It was so beautiful that it took my breath away and I was glad that I left home a little earlier than usual to have time to take in the full glory of the experience.

Just after I entered my tunnel of enchantment I felt the pain of something hitting me hard in the head.  I looked down and there was a snowball that someone had made into a ball of ice.  No wonder it hurt so much when it hit me.  The next day this happened again and I saw a boy named Donald running away from the path and toward the school.  The next day it happened again and I was really mad that he was ruining my morning adventure and thought he was really mean.  I wanted to make him stop so I made a great big snowball and was going to wash his face in snow.  He ran up the steps to the school door that entered into the main hall and I caught him just as he got to the door and put the snowball right in his face. Well, I was horrified when he jumped back just as I was pushing the ball toward his face and his head hit one of the glass window panes in the door and broke the window. The school nurse was called, Donald stood there crying like a baby and his teacher swooped down on me, grabbed me harshly by the arm and marched me straight to the principal's office while yelling some very unflattering things at me all the way.  I was saying to myself that I thought that Donald was a sissy and a big baby.

The principle was also my teacher so he looked quite surprised to see that a girl who was usually so quiet was in so much trouble.  He kept trying to ask me what happened and all I could do is cry because I was so frightened to be in so much trouble.  Finally he said he was going to call my parents to come and get me and then I really started crying. He tried very patiently for a very long time to find out why I was crying so hard. He patiently and kindly questioned me so I finally trusted him enough to tell him the truth.  I told him that my dad said if any of us ever got into trouble at school we would get a spanking when we got home.  He said, “Don’t worry, you can wait here in my office and I will talk to you after I get the class started on the assignment for the first class of the day.”  So that is how it happened that the only time I ever got in trouble in school and was sent to the principal's office, I spent the entire day there.

The principle was a very thin spare man and always wore a pin striped suit with a vest and white shirt and tie.  He seemed very serious so I was a little afraid of him. I was very surprised to find that he was very kind and patient and kept quietly talking to me to find out just what had happened and why I was so upset. Tattling wasn’t allowed at home so I was afraid to tell him what Donald had done but I could tell that he didn’t believe for one minute that I had just pushed Donald’s head through the window for no reason. He kept me in his office all day and just left the room to start the class on the next assignment and then came back and talked to me until I trusted him. He made me understand that he would not think I was tattling, that I had a right to stand up for myself and that he believed I was telling the truth.  He even got out of me the reason why I was so good at standing up for myself. He made me feel safe enough that I told him that my brother, who was five years older than me, was a bully and since I wasn’t allowed to tattle I had to defend myself.  He seemed to be very understanding so I felt safe to tell him everything.  He even went to the kitchen and brought lunch for both of us into his office. He had won my confidence and we continued to talk all through lunch.

Later in the afternoon he got Donald’s teacher aside and told her what he had found out about what had actually happened between Donald and me and of course she was very surprised because Donald hadn’t told her any of the details about his part in the whole drama.  It was of some comfort that she had a very changed opinion about me and was even a little nice to me after the principal talked to her.  Still, I never trusted her completely after that.  I couldn’t forget how mean she had talked to me and how she pinched my arm.

The Principal and Donald’s teacher decided that we were equally responsible for the broken window and that we would each have to bring a nickel to school by the following Friday to pay for it.  Only one problem, nickels were very hard to come by in my house.  So I had all weekend and clear to the next Friday to see if I could find enough pop bottles to turn in to make the 5 cents.  I knew I had a lot of competition for the coveted pop bottles that were just thrown away.  I imagined that only a person that was very rich could waste money like that.

I looked for pop bottles and wracked my brain to think of what I could do to make a nickel.  Not one pop bottle was thrown in the fields or by the side of the road that weekend unless someone had found it before me.  Earning money wasn’t even a possibility because in my family you worked just to help the family and didn’t even think of expecting pay for that work. I couldn’t sleep at night and heard my grandma’s grandfather's clock chime all night announcing the time painful hour by hour.  When Thursday night came I didn’t sleep one wink because I dreaded asking my dad for a nickel knowing he would want to know what I needed it for and that the answer would land me in big trouble.

Morning finally came and I couldn’t even eat my breakfast because I was so nervous about asking my dad for money.  I wouldn’t have thought of lying about why I needed the nickel and I was sure he would ask what I needed it for.  I walked by his dresser and could see some change in the little log cabin jewelry box I had made him out of match sticks for his birthday so that did lessen the anxiety a little bit.  I casually walked by his dresser just as he was picking up his car keys and said as sweetly as I could, “Daddy, could I please have a nickel?  I need it for school.”  He said, “Sure dolly,” that was what he called me when he was in a good mood.  He handed me the nickel and I have never told him the story to this day.

When the story was over Zena said, “Mom, why do you think that Donald was mean to you?

“Well, I said, I have thought about that now that I am an adult. I think that it is most likely that he wanted my attention.  What do you think?”  Zena thought a minute and then said, “He didn’t have to make the snowball into a ball of ice if all he wanted was your attention.”  Zeus interjected, “mom was probably taking so much time looking at the frozen spiders that the snowball turned into a ball of ice while he was waiting for her to get close enough to throw it.”  We all laughed and mom said, “In the car you two, it is time to leave for school and you don’t want to be late the first day.”