Archived Story

Back to school wishes

Published 11:00pm Friday, August 10, 2012

My friend Betty Kay was 6 years old and she was going to first grade. I was only five. I had to stay home.

When you’ve been best friends with somebody all your life and she’s going off to school and leaving you at home with nobody to play with except two little boys who run around in dirty, stinky diapers and sugar sacks around their necks, then it’s time to throw a fit.

Now, Mama didn’t take too kindly to fit throwing. She would reach up on top of the refrigerator and get the keen, peach tree switch that lived up there and I’d do the switch dance.

Mama would grab my arm and start whipping that switch at my bare, bird legs. I’d start running around and around her, jumping and hollering. Around and around we’d go, doing the switch dance.

I jerked so hard on my arm, trying to get away, that my left arm is about an inch longer than my right arm.

Every time I’d done the switch dance, it had always ended in Mama’s favor.

So, I decided the best chance I had of going to school with Betty Kay was to pout.

That’s where little children fold their arms over their chests, poke out their lips, close their eyes and don’t say a single word.

“I hope it doesn’t come a freeze with your face looking like that,” Mama said. She always said that when I pouted. But it was summertime and it was hot. A freeze didn’t seem likely. So, I pouted … until Daddy came home.

Then, I changed my tune in a hurry. At our house, Daddy was the king of the castle. And nobody messed with the king.

That afternoon, Mama sat me down and told me that the schools have rules. That you have to be 6 years old to go. She said I could not go and there wasn’t anything that anybody could do about it. She said I could throw fits and I could pout but I still couldn’t go so I had better just straighten up and fly right.

Aunt Beatie came every morning and every night to milk the cow, Daisy. Most days, I’d go with her, but I didn’t feel like holding up Daisy’s tail to keep it from swatting Aunt Beatie in the face while it was swatting flies.

I was sitting on the back steps with a sad, sad face when Aunt Beatie came by from milking. I told her that I couldn’t go to school with Betty Kay and there would only be baby boys to play with. I started crying.

Aunt Beatie held me on her lap and said sometimes we wish for things we don’t need. Maybe I didn’t need to go to school because I was too little.

Betty Kay’s mama bought her some new school dresses. I didn’t like to wear dresses so I didn’t care about that. But she got a blue writing tablet with a horse on it and a book satchel with Roy Rogers on it. That made me want to go to school so bad that I went home and cried.

A few days later, Mama said she had some really good news. I could go to school.

They had passed a new law that 5-year-old children could go to school. I squealed and jumped and turned “summer salts.” That was the happiest day of my life.

Maybe Mama bribed the school board or maybe she got the switch after the principal. Maybe she went up there and threw a fit or pouted. But, whatever she did, it worked.

I got two new dresses, a blue writing tablet with a horse on it and a Hopalong Cassidy book satchel.

Best of all, I got to go to school with Betty Kay.

But, nobody had told me that at school you had to sit down and be quiet. Or that you couldn’t hardly ever go outside and play and that the teacher has eyes in the back of her head.

You had to hold up your hand to go to the bathroom and wash your hands with soap and take a nap.

Aunt Beatie was right. Sometimes you wish for things you don’t need.

If I hadn’t gotten my wish, I’d have been at home with Mama and playing with those little boys in dirty diapers as happy as a lark.

Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Contact her at jaine.treadwell@troymessenger.com.

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