I still remember my first public failure. And I am not talking about a private one, like the time I bit my brother’s cheek in the bathtub because he WAS EATING THE BAR OF SOAP instead of giving it to me when I wanted to pretend it was an iron for the washcloth, the ledge of the tub serving as my ironing board. He sat there manically giggling at me while nibbling away at the Zest. I recall seeing a red wave of anger (yes, that really happens) and then proceeding to bite the side of his face and refusing to let go. I may have even growled like the bulldog I was impersonating. That is until my dad rushed in, in answer to my brother’s shrieks for mercy. In a flash, I was yanked from the tepid water like a wriggling fish and promptly spanked for being a delinquent. And I admit that I deserved a walloping, and probably much more than that if I am really honest with myself. BEHAVIORAL FAIL. But again, that was private, not public. And it left no lasting emotional or physical scars, except for the fact that my brother still refuses to use soap when he bathes. Kidding! Kidding! He smells delicious, I promise.
But I do remember my first PUBLIC failure quite clearly. Isn’t it funny how things affect you, and can continue to affect you for years after the fact? Even the smallest of situations can leave enormous impressions – hence my sharply uncomfortable memory of that first humiliation outside of the protection of my family home. I remember my school outfit that day, a navy blue jumper. I remember the maroon canvas headband I wore, my blond hair hanging loose down my back. I remember the lunch that I ate, packed in my rainbow wicker lunchbox. And I remember the condescending look on my first grade teacher’s face as she handed back my English exam. I remember seeing the “C-” written in bold red ink across the top of the page, accompanied by a frown face. That’s right, a frown face. On a first grader’s test paper. I remember the way it felt when my stomach dropped like a bucket of ice water, running all the way down to my toes where it pooled for the rest of the day – sloshing, squishing, squirming, and generally being upset that it was no longer attached to my intestines where it belonged. But most of all I remember it being nearly impossible to HOLD MY SHIT TOGETHER for the rest of the day; counting the minutes until I could go home and cry, wail and gnash my teeth in private. All because I forgot how to alphabetize words beginning with the same letters – mead, meal, mean, meander, meant, you get the picture.
At least that grammar lesson has been SET IN STONE since that fateful day. I will be 95 years old, sitting alone with my hairnet and dentures as I gaze out of the window at my nursing home. I will be unable to recall my own name or the days of the week, BUT I WILL REMEMBER how to alphabetize those tricky words. Knead, knit, knock, know… I wonder what Mrs. Macendollar is up to these days? Probably terrorizing the next generation of first graders all over again. FROWN FACE FOR YOU! Ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!
Theater, thesis, thread, threat, thrive. Suck it, Mrs. Mac.