Saturday, September 29, 2007

Childhood Scars

Today in the Obituaries, I saw a name that brought me back in time; back to one of my most embarassing childhood memories. I was the narrator in a play we 4th graders were presenting to the kindergarten class. The play was "The Gingerbread Boy," and Tommy Noll had the lead role. A social misfit, Tommy was not a popular boy. He was a victim of constant harassment (for reasons I don't recall). That my teacher, Mrs. Mack, had chosen him for the lead was most likely an (uncharacteristic) act of kindness on her part. In this particular scene, Tommy the Gingerbread Boy was running around the room as we sang, "He ran and ran, as fast as he can, that naughty fresh-baked gingerbread man!" I guess the modeling of kindness toward Tommy was lost on me, because during this scene, when Tommy fell flat on his face, our entire class laughed out loud, to the point of disrupting our song. Quickly, Tommy got up and continued his escape while the chorus returned to task. My line following the song was, "No one could catch him! He was the fastest gingerbread man on earth." However, I could not proceed!

A lesser-known fact about me is that when people get hurt, I laugh. Fall down some stairs in front of me and I am likely to fall apart in giggles. Break your toe on the livingroom couch, and I am in stitches! It's a pattern that I can trace all the way back to this Gingerbread event, althought I'm really not sure if it started that day or not. Regardless, when Tommy fell, a switch was tripped in me, and I laughed so hard, I nearly choked. This is not, of course, good form for the narrator in an otherwise hitch-free performance. I could not stop laughing, even after the other kids had; my eyes teared up from the exertion. They dried up rather quickly, however, when my gaze fell upon Mrs. Mack; her tight, blond behive a beacon above blazing eyes in a stone face. Instantly sobered, I continued with my lines.

I had never liked Mrs. Mack. She definitely played favorites, and she gave kids extra credit for massaging her shoulders during movies. I wanted the extra credit but hated the thought of touching her, so it ticked me off. On this day, back in the classroom after the performance, there was hell to pay. Mrs. Mack chewed us all a new one for laughing when Tommy fell, but she saved the climax of her tirade for me. I don't remember her words; only my public shame and the tears of humiliation that accompanied it.

Obviously, I never forgot that day. I wish I could say it cured me of laughing when people get hurt, but it didn't. Must be just nerves, I guess, because clearly, it is not funny when your neighbor (weirdo or not) trips in your garage at your Halloween party, leaving an actual tuft of hair stuck in your doorway molding and having to go home with a concussion. I'll keep working on that bad habit of mine. If you're ever a victim of my seeming lack of compassion, please forgive me and know that it's nothing personal. We all react to stress differently.

So, now that you know my most embarassing childhood memory, how about sharing yours?


  1. I am sure this blog will touch many of us in different ways. Here is a story that first came to mind for me....

    I was never one of the kids in school that got picked on. Other than when me and my sisters got pixie hair cuts and some kids unaffectionately called us "Baldy".

    I do remember making cruel comments to a girl named Debbie in middle school. It seemed many people picked on her. I obviously didn't know what it felt like to be humiliated by my peers.

    Anyway we held a slave auction at school as a fundraising event. I was chosen as one of the slaves to go up for auction. I was "bought" and for one whole day at school I had to do whatever my "master" told me to do. I was forced to wear an mismatch of clothes, have terrible acne painted on my face, wear a whole bottle of awful cologne, carry a silver platter with several school books on it, roll through the halls on roller skates, and waddle with a thick padding stuffed in my pants.

    I felt so extremelby humiliated throughout the day. It all came to a head when I managed to lose my balance on the roller skates and went flying in the lockers while books, my bifocal glasses, and my pride went sailing down the hall. Several kids broke out in to histarical laughter. I was in pain on the outside but even more so on the inside.

    I guess I had it coming. I learned a lot from this experience. I only had a little taste of pain that day. Just imagining what a person like Debbie endured on a daily basis is so incredibly sad. I hope she hasn't even looked back at those days. If and when she does I hope she knows that some of us are very sorry for what she endured.

  2. I can't say it was my most embarrassing moment, but I can say that a few things run in the family. . . Before our debut as singing kittens in the 4th grade version of Broadway CATS, my least favorite teacher told us to stop being so loud and meowing so much (we had whiskers and ears and tails and such)--thinking I would be clever like I had seen some troublesome boys do, I quipped "Why did you make us dress up like this if you didn't want a bunch of wild animals in the hallway?" . . . He then used the moment as a "lesson for all" by removing me from the program. . . at least until I hysterically cried and begged forgiveness in from of the whole class. So, it seems theatrical tendencies run in the family, as well as aversions to bully teachers. However, unlike my Aunt Barb, I learned my lesson immediately! I never quipped smart-alec remarks in front of superiors ever again!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. From Jacque: I know this to be true of you and was very thankful the first time I was hurt in front of you and you explained your behavior to me, for if you hadn't, we may not be the friends we are today; my injured body also had an injured ego to accompany it! "I'm hurt and she thinks it's funnier then hell, well what kind of friend are you?!" Thank God we're still friends, for I adore you more than you know and find you to be one of the truest friends I have. Hopefully somewhere down the line little Tommy recovered and you'll continue to grow in your response to others pain and embarrassment. If he really knew you, he would have laughed too!!

  5. FROM GERI: Enjoyed reading your blog as usual! Thanks. I am reminded that prior to 4th grade I loved school and got As and Bs. We moved from St. John's to St. Pete's and my life changed for the worse, at least in Math. I was at the board, having a math block over long division, which I tended to almost panic over in my mind. I was turning red as a beet and feeling like the most stupid person in the world. Mrs. Lazuzurne, who was married to the fire chief, but looked like the typical spinster, tall, skinny, with her hair in a bun, was mean in my opinion. I felt ridiculed, but not sure what she said. Probably she had someone try to help me, but all I felt was shame. Don't remember if I ever asked mom or dad for help. Probably my pride prevented me from doing that, or I thought that they were too busy, with dad's job and mom having at least 4 other kids at the time. Finally when my daughter Stephanie was the same age, I tore out the page in the math book that explained it, and proved that I could do it easily. That paper is still in my kitchen junk drawer, and while I have never needed it, it will remain there! She also gave me my first and maybe only C in Reading, which was my favorite subject. My dad uncharacteristically took time to go to the school and ask her why, and she said it was because I read too fast. Well, to this day I devour at least 2-3 books a week, not to mention magazines, newspaper articles and things online, so to me it seems like a plus. Plus, I took the "Tickle" IQ test online last week just for fun, and they classified me as a "Wordsmith" in command of the language, so there, Mrs. L.!
    Ha ha. Poor woman probably had more compassion for me than I realized. Now if you want to hear about my favorite teacher, that will have to be saved for another time! P.S. I am married to an Engineer, so if I need assistance in Math, he can take over! I have more exciting things to do.:)


Your 2 cents...