Oops! I Accidentally Got Us Kicked Out of School: Part II

Oops! I Accidentally Got Us Kicked Out of School: Part II

“In the final stages of their evil plan to break her spirit, she was forced to wear a cardboard Christmas tree. Note the dead eyes and glazed expression.”


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In case you’re wondering how my first day as the new kid went, here’s a hint. It was probably The Worst First Day of School Ever. There was humiliation.  There was danger. Then some more humiliation.

In short? Not exactly a dream scenario for a timid child.

My new teacher (who, to my eyes was so old she was practically mummified) gave the class a spelling test. Even though it was my first day, and I hadn’t yet studied the words, she had me take the test too. To gauge my level of knowledge? To humiliate me? I suspect the latter.

Well, I took the test. Imagine my horror when she called me up to the front of the class shortly afterward and said the following:

“Now, class. This is our new student Lisa.” (Cue looks of expectant curiosity from the class) “And I just want everyone to know that out of the entire class, Lisa was the only one to get a 100% on the spelling test.” (Cue looks of sheer burning hatred from the class). “You all should be ashamed of yourselves for not doing better!”  And then she turned to me, smiled with satisfaction, and sent me back to my seat, where I was now persona non grata. As if I had any farther to fall.

But wait… this was wrong! Teachers were supposed to be like Miss Beadle on Little House on the Prairie! They were supposed to be warm and full of hard-earned Prairie Wisdom! They weren’t supposed to drag you up to the front of class and slap a bull’s eye on you.   Even at that age, I knew I was in trouble.

At some point, one girl in particular decided to exact her revenge on me for daring to show up the class on my first day.  When it was time for music class, we trooped down to the underbelly of the school single file.  As we traversed a long hallway,  a girl I’ll call “Karen”, whose pink puffy overalls  belied her obvious future in a juvenile detention facility , turned to me and pointed to  another hallway off of the one we were in.

“Oh, new kids don’t go to music class,” she said sweetly. “They just go outside and play on the playground until class is over. You go that way.” And then she gave me a shove to point me up the hallway and out the door.

Figuring she must know what she was talking about (even I want to go back and slap myself for stupidity) I exited the double doors to find… a completely empty playground. Sensing something wasn’t right (Um, ya think?) I tried to open the doors to get back in, but they were locked.

Realizing my predicament, I did the sensible thing. I sat down on a bench and cried.

I don’t know how long I was out there before some teacher found me and brought me, all snotty and puffy-eyed, to music class. I remember walking in and locking eyes with Karen, who smirked at me and went back to singing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.

Oh, but my humiliation wasn’t complete yet. Because the last class of the day? Was gym class. Kickball.  We didn’t play it at my old school. I’d never played kickball in my life, as a matter of fact.  Nor any organized sport whatsoever, unlike my new classmates who were all already entrenched in soccer leagues.

No one asked me if I knew how to play; I guess they just assumed I did. I didn’t get that whole running of the bases thing.  So I kicked the ball, and I understood that I was supposed to run to first, but that was where my knowledge ended. What I didn’t understand was that I was also supposed to run when the next person kicked the ball. And so this kid I’ll call “Mark” kicked the ball and came flying toward first base, where I was still standing like a dumbass. He must have been looking the other way, because POW!  He smacked into me full force like an eight year old Lawrence Taylor, knocking me flat. Result? A bloody nose, bloody lip, and a knot on my head.

As I was escorted, sobbing, to the nurse, I couldn’t help wondering what the hell kind of place my parents had dropped me into. It was like being dropped off in Dodge City with a deck of Old Maid cards and a squirt gun.

And that, friends, was just my first day.

I made it through that month, somehow, and entered third grade in the fall with a teacher who asked me if my family was “poor”, and made us sing show tunes at indoor recess. So, no, it didn’t get much better.

But for the rest of my school career, I continued to kick everyone’s ass in spelling. Because it was really the only weapon I had.

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Notes from the Shallow End


The Smell of the Barn

The barn of my dreams.

The barn of my dreams.



Today, I’m jumping into Finish the Sentence Friday, so I’m writing from a prompt.

Today’s prompt: If I could live anywhere, I’d live…

On a farm. Specifically the farm my grandparents owned when I was growing up.

I’ve looked. It’s not for sale. Maybe some day it will be. And maybe the day it comes up for sale I will just happen to be driving by, with one of those giant cardboard checks from the lottery in my backseat. Hey, you never know.

My grandparents didn’t live there. My parents, grandparents, and aunt kept their horses there, and my aunt and uncle lived in the old white farmhouse shaded by enormous trees. My grandfather had some cattle, and there were some chickens, but it wasn’t a livestock farm.

We spent summer evenings and weekends at that farm. My parents mucked stalls, repaired fences, and groomed horses while we waded in the shallow creek, overturning rocks to look for the crawdads that would dart just out of our reach. We climbed trees, tried to catch the chickens, and played in the barns. Many evenings we would drive back home after dark, a summer breeze blowing in the window of the station wagon, falling asleep to the sound of the Cincinnati Reds game on the radio.

While we helped out in the barn and groomed the horses sometimes, the horses were really for the adults. They had enough injuries to know how risky riding and caring for horses could be. My parents also knew full well how expensive the care of horses could get, so although we grew up around the horses, we were never encouraged to pursue riding as a hobby. We rode on occasion, usually at the encouragement of my daredevil grandfather, but for the most part the equestrian life was the grown-ups’ domain. Except for my cousin.

I can remember driving up the long road to the farm and seeing my wild child cousin, no more than 9 at the time, riding bareback through the farm fields with her hair flying out behind her. She was as comfortable on a horse as she was on two feet, often leaping onto the horse’s back straight over the rump like you see in the movies. We were close then, my cousin, my sister, and I.

But life marches on, and adult decisions were made that didn’t involve us kids. Sometime in my early teens, my grandparents sold the farm and all of the horses and de-camped to a condo in Florida. My parents gave up the riding life, finding golf to be a less dangerous pursuit. I did learn to ride passably, but it was at summer camp, not at the hands of my parents. My aunt, uncle, and cousin moved out of state so my uncle could take a high level corporate job, and we rarely saw them any more. At some point after that, my cousin began to founder. Despite my aunt and uncle’s efforts to help her, she is now lost to us.

My memories of that time in my life are like the Super 8 movies we took back then. Fuzzy and out of focus in spots, and soundless, but bright. Everything is bathed in sunlight.  And we were all together.

To this day, the smell of a horse barn is like a tonic to me. Leather tack, hay, saddle soap, grain, and the antiseptic smell of Absorbine Junior takes me back to my childhood and a simpler time. My kids don’t understand it yet, and they think it’s funny when I drive by a stable and roll down the windows to inhale the scent. But they’ve all been on horseback, and like the rest of my family they are comfortable there.

My  hope is that someday I can buy a small farm. (I’d love for it to be the family compound, with a few houses on the property so my entire extended can all live there, but somehow I don’t think my parents share my utopian vision  of togetherness. Hmph. Fine.)   We may live there, we may not. But with a couple of horses, my kids and I can all work side by side until sunset, and drive home dusty and smelling like the barn. And I’ll have the Reds game on the radio.