“Class! Class! Take your seats. Everyone be seated, please,” urged Mrs. Robinson, my second grade teacher.
We were reasonably obedient. Within a few minutes we were all at our desks waiting for the next set of instructions. We liked Mrs. Robinson. She was tall and willowy, not a real beauty, but really kind. She hadn’t been teaching long, but she had a teacher’s heart. That went a long way with rowdy seven-year-olds.
“Class, it’s time to sharpen our pencils. Row 1, you may go first,” she told us.
That’s how we did it then — in an orderly fashion. We had to. There were so many of us. We were the original Baby Boomers. Soldiers home from World War II fathered a lot of babies born in 1947. We doubled the number of classes in school, and increased the number of students per class.
Just the year before our only two first grade classrooms and our only two first grade teachers did double duty with two classes each per day — morning and afternoon. There were no teaching assistants then. One teacher was responsible for the whole lot. That’s how I became teacher’s pet.
I remember writing numbers and letters as early as four years old. I would lie on the wooden floor just outside the bathroom where my daddy was shaving. Paper and pencil at the ready, I would ask him how to spell something, then write it as he called out the letters. It was an arduous task, especially when I tried to write over a nail in the floorboard, but I persisted. I felt very grown up. Being the baby of the family I needed all the ego boosts I could get.
But two years later when I met Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot and Puff – well, it was the highlight of my young life. Those letters made words that you could READ. I mastered “to,” “the,” “him,” “her,” and all the little stuff until I finally got to the action words. Oh, yeah! I’m working it now. “Run, Spot, run!” “Jump, Sally, jump!” “Look at Puff! Look, Mother. See Puff.” This was my introduction to a really big world.
Halfway through first grade Mrs. Reboussin recognized that I needed to be her teaching assistant. She took half the class and gave me the other half for flashcards. I was in heaven!!! I got to read BOTH SIDES of the cards!
School agreed with me … if first grade was any indication.
Now I was in second grade and still trying my wings, but I liked it. I liked doing what the teacher asked of us.
“Last Row, you may go to the pencil sharpener now,” Mrs. Robinson instructed.
I walked obediently to the front of the class and waited patiently until it was my turn to find the right size hole, put the pencil in, and begin churning away with the handle. Sharpening pencils was an art form, and I was good at it. I had had years of practice. I did a lot of sharpening for my older siblings, so I knew a thing or two about having the shaved part of the pencil uniform and making the point really pointy without letting it fall out of its wooden socket.
Pencil sharpened to perfection, I made my way back to my seat, placing both hands on the top of my desk, pencil held firmly in my tight little fist, pointing skyward.
“Now, class, it’s rest time. Put your heads on your desks,” Mrs. Robinson said with an air of relief. She would be glad for the peace and quiet.
Not so fast, Mrs. Robinson. The obedient child on the last row obediently lowered her forehead onto the really pointy point of her newly sharpened pencil.
Wow! That didn’t feel right. I pulled back, dislodging the pencil and started dabbing at my forehead with my handkerchief. It was floral, hand-painted by my Great Aunt Vi. Every morning my mother knotted my milk money into one corner of the hanky so I wouldn’t lose it. There were lots and lots of red roses painted on the handkerchief, so I didn’t notice there was blood. Until the little girl next to me got a really scared look on her face.
“You better go to Mrs. Robinson right now!” she screamed.
So I did. Mrs. Robinson was horrified. She sprang into action. The school nurse sprang into action with something that was really sting-y. The principal came in to survey the damage. At the end of the day they sent me home on the school bus – no note, no phone call home. Things were different in 1954.
My mother was not at home that day. I was supposed to stay at my friend Anne’s house until someone from my family came to claim me.
I walked into the plumbing supply office (that was the front part of Anne’s house). Her mother kept the books for the business. I showed her my still oozing wound and explained what happened. There among the appliances on display Anne’s mother had a brief meltdown. Here she was – in charge of somebody else’s idiot kid with a hole in her head. She collected her thoughts, dabbed something on it that was not quite as sting-y, and prayed my family would return soon.
Today if you look closely you will be able to see the blue spot on my forehead — all that remains now of the pointy pencil lead. But beyond that is a soul bent on obedience to the Father and His word. Oh, I don’t always get it right, but I have the heart of a woman who really wants to.
“Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.“ – Romans 6:15-17 (NLT)