Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let 'er rip

It’s back to school time again … already.

The Kiddo seems as ambivalent as I am about the start of school, mainly because of the concept of homework that she was firmly introduced to last year. She likes school, thank goodness. But I don’t know of any kid who really likes homework.

At least The Kiddo gets to start fourth grade in the school she knows, with friends she’s familiar with. My fourth grade year was the first year in a brand-spanking new school to me, and I didn’t know anybody in my class.

There were upsides – the lunchroom food was better, I loved the science and the social studies textbooks, and my teacher was great.

But it was also the year that I first started having to ride the bus (which meant getting up earlier), the year that I realized I didn’t know how to make a long-distance phone call to my mom to come pick me up when I was sick, and the year that a pair of pants graced me with a split seam down the back.

By funny coincidence, earlier in the week of the pants-incidence, we’d read a story about a boy whose pants had split. I’d not paid any attention to it beyond answering the questions and thinking, “Wow, that must have been embarrassing.”

Then a few days later, I heard the tell-tale riiiip in the straddle of my black-and-white checked pants and I found out just how embarrassing a split straddle was.

I had no idea what to do. It was a warm spring day, and I wore no jacket to tie over my suddenly exposed backside. I kept wondering how I was supposed to get from my desk – middle of the row, middle of the room – to let my teacher know what had gone wrong.

Probably if I had just walked up to her desk without making a big deal, nobody would have noticed. But it was probably the very way I tried NOT to attract notice that attracted notice. I heard giggles and snickers and was grateful to the bone when my teacher sent me to the office. In the deserted hallway, I didn’t have to worry about who might be seeing my underoos.

A very kind secretary let me stay in a little bathroom just off her office while she roughly stitched the rip back together. I remember wiggling my bare legs in the bathroom, my pants a world away on the other side of that door, and hoping nobody had to use the bathroom until my pants were mended.

I think about the me that I was in fourth grade, a funny little kid who loved Galileo and hated division and survived split pants. And then I think about The Kiddo. On the one hand, she seems so much wiser than I was, while on the other? So much younger. I wonder if my own mom thought the same thing when she, laughing in the kindest possible way at my predicament, ripped out the secretary’s stitches and began stitching a proper repair.


Jessica Lemmon said...

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger right? Yet... I still curl up in embarrassment when I remember taking a valentine into the neighboring 2nd grade classroom to a boy I liked and stretching, streeettttcccchinnng to reach his paper sack at the top of the bulletin board.

In front of the entire class.

I couldn't quite reach, so my taller friend, witnessing my pain, got out of her seat and deposited the valentine and I slunk out of the room...


Maybe this unrecquited love is what propelled me into writing romance... ;)

Kelly Breakey said...

I think embarressment is a right of passage, but the idea of black and white checkered pants sure does take me back. I cringe when I look at those school class pictures. What were they thinking and by they I mean our parents parading us around in those ridiculous polyester pants. Never mind that it was the style. I still cringe every single time.

Patty Blount said...

I had to wear an icky uniform to school, so no stories of rips there. (I'd have been happy, actually.)

But I was forced to go to school with a GINORMOUS zit on the tip of my nose.


Oh, the humanity.

Julie Musil said...

Oh, the stories of our youth. If only we could smooth them over and make them more bearable! I suppose as writers, we could say this all makes for great material!

Good luck to the kiddo starting school. Mine start 5th and 8th in three weeks!

Cynthia Reese said...

Jessica, it WAS what propelled you! See? Trusty sidekick, conflict, it's all there. ;-)

Kelly, I think about those pants and look at today's kiddo fashions, then giggle, fastforwarding through all the blackmail material I'll have over her!

Patty, I had ugly acne when I was a kid -- thank God not in conjunction with split plaid pants!

Julie, somehow I think I wouldn't have been a writer if stuff like that hadn't stuck into my psyche!