Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is It Love ?

For reasons I've no need to go in to I was discussing something nice my parents had done for me. I had two examples, one about my Dad and one about my Mom but by the time we got around to it I couldn't remember it. It was gone. I'd thought of it for almost a week and when I needed it---GONE.
As soon as I was in the car I remembered it. I turned on the air conditioning backed out of the drive turned the wrong way and then turned around again the right way (also a metaphor ? allegory? for my life).

Because it wasn't really something my Mom did nice for me.

So--here's what happened. I was in third grade at Bradley Elementary. I do not remember my teacher--I remember only three of my teachers in my whole life --and obviously--up until this point in my third grade life I'd made no dent in her brain, either. We were doing our grade school talent show for the parents. The third grade was going to sing the # 1 Hit Parade song of the season--Perry Como's Catch A Falling Star. If you don't know the song let alone the singer it doesn't really matter except that it required all of the 30 children in the 3rd grade Bradley Elementary class to bring a cardboard star with glitter on it that we would move over our heads as we sang. Mimeograph instructions were sent out with dimensions and suggestions for brands of products to buy and please every one's star must be THE SAME SIZE. (God I loved mimeographs--I'm surprised anything resembling purple ink got home to my house a few blocks away I'd sniffed so hard and so deep and I always regretted handing it over to my mother. )

Any way--mother read the instructions, swore and screamed that she didn't have time, money, ability or desire to do it as she always did over everything I wanted or needed or must have. And then she did what she always did--She called Dad at work for the list of things to buy, set up a card table in the living room, taped newspaper on it, screamed at us all until we went to sleep and while we slept she did her magic. I had the most stunning five pointed silver glittered star you ever saw. It even had a handle on the back so I didn't have to hold the edge and make the glitter come off. There was no square inch of that old grocery store carton cardboard that wasn't THICK with silver glitter. She always did that. Better than anybody. Bigger than anybody more perfect than anybody. I don't know 'who' at the time all that meant--I just knew it.

There was so much glitter on my star that when I took a step with it the glitter left a trail. Mom called Dad at work and made him come home and take me to school so the glitter would not be gone by the time I got to school. The program was at 3PM so he just went back home and helped with all the babies.

At 2:55 we all left our classroom to a full auditorium (well--I was what--7?8? thirty kids--two parents each --full auditorium.) We were behind the velvet curtain all standing where we had stood every day for two months practicing for the moment. I was so small I was always in the front row. I held my star out and the teacher did an absolutely classic double take and took the star from my hands. She looked up in the back row and called out for Susie Gunther to come down and "bring your star, dear!".

Susie Gunther was Shirley Temple. Really. Somebody took her from the movie screen and froze her and put her in my class. Blond hair with natural curls that fell in angel kisses around her perfectly round rosy pink face. She had lips that looked like bee stings and she was dressed in velvet and lace. Susie Gunther. My --what--opposite? I was small to the point of emaciated, I rarely smiled unless I was performing (I performed most of my child life) I sang like an angel but I looked like a starving orphan from Europe (a big thing at the time--my kids had starving kids in Bangladesh--their kids will have starving kids somewhere God knows). Susie's star was pathetic. It was too small. Cut from a Tide box, and IF Mommy made it she might have done so while watching Perry Como sing or perhaps after drinking another Martini--you could see the few odd squiggles of glue and not even a handful of glitter on it--not only that--the bright Tide box design showed.
Then my teacher did something I bet she will never forget eve if I did for a little while.She put me in the back row with big beautiful Susie Gunther's horrid star and Susie in the front--CENTER FRONT--with my star. The curtains opened, the teacher bowed and turned around to direct us.
"Catch a falling star and put it in your pock----"

That is as far as we got. My mother , all 5 feet of her was stomping on toes, screaming --screaming AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! as she got out of the middle of the row about 3/4ths of the way back. Her hand bag swinging her high heels clunking. She made it up to the stage and pushed the teacher out of the way and grabbed my star--uh--HER STAR-- out of Susie's hands and screamed for me "KATHY BEGLEY GET DOWN HERE THIS MINUTE!" She couldn't see me in the back. I squirmed through the group, mom took my hand and dragged me off the stage. By that time Dad was holding the auditorium door open... and we left.

I absolutely do not remember what happened after that but I do know both parents had to go back to school with me the next Monday.

And Susie Gunther and I never spoke again.

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