Watching and Learning:
A Story for My Sister Linda on Her 70th Birthday
By Marylin J. Nease, TX © firstname.lastname@example.org
My first memory of Linda involves the two of us—and one Hereford steer.
Probably, I was six, and Linda was 10.
I remember being with Linda in a stall in our barn, and the stall’s floor had a bed of straw. I watched Linda groom her steer with a curry comb, leaving a wavy pattern in the animal’s coat. When she finished, Linda used a halter to lead the steer outside, and we walked the steer from our house to the end of our road—to the point where our road intersected with the next road—and back again, maybe half a mile.
Linda was grooming and exercising this steer in preparation for showing it at the Grady County fair.
It was early morning—so early that it seemed it was night to me because we walked her steer in the dark. We made our way down the road by moonlight and starlight.
I can still feel, in my imagination, the dampness and the chill in the air, of that time before night ends and morning begins. I can hear the sounds of the steer’s hooves crunching the gravel of the road as we marched from one end of the road to the other and back again. Other than that crunching sound, there was perfect quiet all around us.
Later, when the steer-walking chore was done and we climbed our school bus steps, it was still dark outside.
The mystery and the wonder I felt as I walked by Linda’s side that early, early morning, through the dark beneath the moon and the stars, is strong in my memory, as if it happened this morning.
I was along to watch and to learn from Linda, and I’ve been watching and learning from Linda ever since.
In the end, I did not learn to show cattle from Linda; cattle didn’t turn out to be my cup of tea.
But I did learn more important lessons from Linda—about responsibility and patience, about work and goals, about family and love.
And I learned to be an adventurer: to walk in the dark, to look for the moon and the stars, to be unafraid while I find my way in life.
Thank you, Linda.
Learning to Read with Dick, Jane, Baby Sally, Spot, and Puff
By Barbara D. Parks-Lee, DC © email@example.com
First grade was the year we learned to read. Our textbook was the Dick and Jane reader, and we learned the basic words by repetition. We took turns following the whole family as we saw them eat, run, jump, and play. After a while, the reading could become boring as we took turns reading aloud whatever the new word was for the day.
Sometimes, the family ran, while other times, they ate, jumped, or played. I can still hear our voices: “See Dick run. See Jane run. See Baby Sally run. See Spot run. See Puff run.” Every day, we repeated the lesson from the day before and added the new word for the day. By the end of the week, we were getting tired of the whole Dick and Jane family! Repetition may have been good for reinforcing the Dolch 220 list of basic words, but it could be monotonous and boring. By week four we had followed along as the family ate, walked, ran, played, and jumped.
One particularly hot and humid day, when no one felt like being inside, we went through the litany of seeing Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, Baby Sally, Spot, and Puff go through their paces. The new word for the day was jump. One of the more street-wise boys kept squirming in his seat, and our teacher finally put her hands on her hips and asked him what the matter was.
He, without pausing, answered, “This is one crazy family. Every day, they all do the same thing over and over again. Even when it’s too hot, the whole damn family jumps!”
The class snickered, but no one dared to laugh out loud. Our no-nonsense teacher was kind of chubby, and we watched her belly jiggle as she tried not to laugh. The boy who had used the forbidden word was sent to the office, and our teacher decided maybe today would be a good one to have outdoor recess for a little longer than our usual time. Our reading lessons did not repeat everything everyday as we had before the jumping incident. We only had to do repetition at the end of the week instead of every day.
Who Needs Kindergarten!
Jeanette Rhyan, TX © firstname.lastname@example.org
It was the first day of school. I was about to climb up the three big steps into the yellow school bus when my mother stopped me and took my picture to remember this special day. I then got on the bus and found a seat next to my best friend Gail. No one could tell we were a little anxious about going to all day Kindergarten. We smiled and laughed all the way to school.
When the school bell rang, Mrs. Whitmore met us at the designated Kindergarten door and led us to our classroom in the basement of the big brick school building that contained all 13 grade levels. Our classroom was situated between the school cafeteria and the girls’ locker room. There we were, 30 smiling faces, sitting at the small classroom tables ready to begin our school life.
I soon learned that every day was just about the same. Mrs. Whitmore usually started out the school day reading to us about Dick, Jane, and Spot. We were given some big brown lined paper and we worked on printing the alphabet. My printed letters did not look very good. There was a mid-morning15 minute recess period, followed by more lessons. Finally it was time for lunch; more play time, and then a quick nap before our afternoon lessons began. I realized that the daily schedule did not change very much and I did not like Kindergarten.
One day I had had enough of school and I wasn’t going to go back to class after lunch. When lunch and playtime was over, all the girls had an opportunity to use the restroom in the girls’ locker room next to the kindergarten classroom. In the middle of the locker room there were some wooden moveable lockers with 15 cubbyhole spaces on each side, room enough for a girl’s shoes and hang clothes. After I had used the restroom, washed my hands, and gotten a drink of water, I quietly went around to the back side of the wooden lockers and crawled into one of the clothes lockers and hid. I heard the last girl leave the locker room and shut the door. I remained very still.
I faintly heard Mrs. Whitmore as she started teaching the afternoon lessons. All of a sudden she stopped. I could hear her ask the class if anyone knew where I was. No one said a word. She called my name, but I remained quiet. The locker room door opened and Mrs. Whitmore came in and called my name. I still didn’t say a word. I did not want to go back to class.
At the far end of the locker room was a door that led up to the gym. I heard that door open and close. Mrs. Whitmore turned away from the door and then moved the wooden lockers and walked behind them. She came closer to me but I still didn’t say a word. Suddenly she was standing in front of me ordering me to come out of the locker. Once I was out, she delivered a very stern lecture telling me how worried she had been and that my parents were going to be receiving a phone call that evening. She took my arm and escorted me back to class. I sat very still for the reminder of the day.
As promised Mrs. Whitmore called my parents. My mother answered the phone. It was a lopsided conversation with Mrs. Whitmore doing a majority of the talking. The look on my mother’s face was not good. When all was said and done, I received a spanking from my father. I told my parents I didn’t like school and I didn’t want to go back. Kindergarten was not fun.
I was forced to go back to school and yes, I did survive Mrs. Whitmore and Kindergarten. I eventually found out, that the older you became, the more things you were allowed to do in school; and soon school became tolerable. By the time I reached high school, school was something I looked forward to every day.
Here is something to make you smile. After skipping out on Kindergarten one afternoon and spending time in a girl’s locker room, who knew that I would grow up to become a physical education teacher /coach and spend my entire day in a girls’ locker room.