First grade. Late October. Art class.
Assignment: Draw a pumpkin. Not any pumpkin, but the "follow-the-teacher's-instructions-EXACTLY-so-they-all-look-the-same" kind of pumpkin.
Little parochial-school me did as she was told. I'm a fairly decent artist, so my pumpkin actually resembled the ripe orange fruit. But that pumpkin looked so lonely sitting there in the middle of the page. A page with room along the margins. Plenty of room for me, lover of words that I was even then, to prove that I not only knew how to draw a pumpkin, but I could spell it.
I scrawled beneath that merry orange globe.
It looked so cool.
So cool that Robert, sitting next to me, wrote the same thing on his.
The teacher, however, did not think it cool.
Remember, this was forty-odd years ago, back when "invented spelling" was not tolerated, much less encouraged.
Besides, I had not only disobeyed the teacher's instructions, I had tempted a classmate into sin. (Did I mention my middle name is Eve?) Had I been older, I'm sure she would have marched me right off to confession.
Instead, she took my paper and Robert's and tore them to pieces in front of the entire class. A strident warning to any of the other students who might have contemplated following us down the path of verbal insurrection.
The mute, proper pumpkins she hung the around the perimeter of the room. For the next few weeks, every time I looked up I was reminded of my transgression. Forgive me, Father, for I have misspelled.
But I didn't care. For the first time in my life, I had used the written word to declare my independence. I had refused to let the expectations of others stifle me. It was a heady feeling.
I look back on that incident and frankly, I'm surprised. Surprised that teacher didn't scare my love of words right out of me. Surprised I ever had the guts to pick up a pen--or crayon--again.
If anything, it only made me more determined to use them.
Perhaps my quest for publication is nothing more than a desire to prove to Miss Fitzgibbons that now I can spell. But I don't think so. It's more than that. It's a declaration of who I am.
I'll prove the naysayers wrong. Someday, I'll hold a published novel in my hand and this time they won't be able to wrest if from me.
I wonder whatever happened to Robert. I don't remember his last name.
Maybe it was Ludlum.
photo credit: Evan Swigart
"SCHOOL" was the prompt Susan Spann suggested to our writing group this week. The other members' posts can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here. Join us! Link back to your own memory of or meditation on school.