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Third and Fourth Grade Experiences and Lessons

While third grade was fairly uneventful, fourth grade had a bit more activity.

by Deedra Abboud in Mindset, Social Views
July 16, 2016 0 comments

While third grade was fairly uneventful, fourth grade had a bit more activity.

The Replacements

When we moved to Bryant Elementary, I remember two other kids that we went to school with. Todd and Aziza. While we lived in Alexander, they lived in Shannon Hills. Both were in the Bryant School District. Todd was in my class level, and Aziza was in my sister’s.

Thier significance was that my dad had remarried, and they were my dad’s step-children.

Each Christmas we would go to my dad’s house for Christmas. He would have a huge tree with lots of wrapped gifts underneath. We usually went for Christmas Eve to open the gifts.

He or his wife would hand each of us a gift or two, while Todd and Aziza would be given several gifts. Our gifts would usually be something small while their gifts would be name-brand clothes and the latest toys.

We noticed the difference.

To make things worse, all the kids at school knew Todd and Aziza lived with my dad. They called him ‘daddy’ too and always bragged about the things they did with my dad. The other kids would ask all kinds of uncomfortable questions, like why Todd and Aziza always wore name-brand clothes and we wore obvious hand-me-downs.

Divorce was evidently also not common in Bryant, at least in those early years, because we got a lot of questions about why our parents were not together and why my dad had a new family.

We never had any answers to any of the questions. Just shame.

KIZZ

One of my hand-me-down shirts was a KIZZ t-shirt. I loved that shirt. I didn’t know who they were, but I liked their colorful painted faces.summer-2014-new-rock-tee-Black-male-short-sleeve-T-shirt-o-neck-fashion-personality-kiss.jpg_220x220

I wore it to school only one time – and the kids made fun of me all day, calling me a ‘devil worshipper.’ I was confused because I knew my family did not worship the devil. I kept the shirt and continued to wear it at home, but I never wore it to school again.

Final Stand-Off

I still had a lot of anger at my step-dad and his daughter. I think part of it was that I blamed him for taking time away from me with my mother and his daughter replacing me as the ‘baby’ of the family, but I think I also had that oh so common idea that he was the obstacle keeping my mom and dad from being together.

I barely knew my dad, and was not close to him, but I had the fantasy of a perfect family with mom and dad together.

One day, some neighborhood kids and I decided to have a garage sale in our front yard. Cameron, my “boyfriend” from down the street, had brought some of his cars to add to the sale. One of the kids in the neighborhood wanted to buy one of Cameron’s cars.

We couldn’t find the car anywhere. We all remembered Shannon had been playing with it earlier.

So I went in the house and made a fuss about Shannon having taken the car.

I don’t remember if I was still doing things and blaming Shannon for them, but I had a history just the same – I had definitely continued through second grade after we moved to Alexander from Eddy Lane.

We did eventually find the car, and Shannon had taken it to play inside.

My step-dad came outside and yelled at me, accusing me of always blaming Shannon for everything. He did it in front of all my friends – embarrassing me.p_v13ak2fekwc1081

After he yelled at me, he just stared at me in anger.

I remember thinking, “I will stare at his eyes and not look away first.” I was so mad.

After a few minutes, he looked away and laughed. He then said, “Well, I guess you can stare just as long as me.”

He got in his car and left.

I was so ashamed.

Not because it happened in front of my friends, but because I realized he was right. I had always done things and blamed Shannon. The fact that I had not been lying, this time, did not make it better.

Often throughout my childhood, I was my own ‘Punisher.’ I would decide I had done something bad, and I would exact punishment on myself so that I would remember the lesson.

For this shameful behavior, I decided I had no right to look others in the eye. I avoided eye contact until I was in my late teens. At that point [another story for another time], I decided I had punished myself enough and gave myself permission to look others in the eye.

Make a Difference

My step-dad was in the Army Reserves. He left every other weekend for drills. We also went to the Commissary with him to shop.p_v13ak2fekwc1085

He often brought back Army advertising materials, like pencils and notepads. We would use the supplies for school.

Once while sitting in fourth-grade class, I saw the pencil had writing on it. It read, “Make a difference. Join the Army.”

I could not read the word ‘difference.’ I sat for a while sounding the word out: dif.fer.ence. When I finally got it, I was so proud of myself for reading a new word. While I did not mind reading before, though it was not really exciting to me – likely due to my first-grade experience – that self-pride caused me to fall in love with reading like never before.

Reading became my passion. A passion I have never lost and has never dwindled.

Crooked Teeth

I had a crooked tooth. My left front tooth slightly overlapped my right front tooth. I was very self-conscious of it. I stopped showing my teeth when smiling.p_v13ak2few650960

During fourth grade, I came up with an idea. I have no clue where the idea came from, but one day I used my right thumb nail to press between my two front teeth and then my thumb to put pressure on my left front tooth. After doing that a while I noticed my teeth hurt a little like they were moving.

I started growing my right thumbnail longer, and every day would press my thumbnail between my front teeth and use my thumb to push my left front tooth.

By the end of my fourth-grade year, my front teeth were straight.

Dad Returns

During my fourth-grade year, my dad was involved in a really bad car accident. I think he was driving drunk. It almost killed him. His ear was almost severed off, and he had a brace on his leg so he couldn’t walk. I think it was broken, but I do not recall for sure.

I assume something happened between my dad and his wife before the car accident. I never heard any stories about it, but my dad called my mom for help. He needed somewhere to recover because he was fairly banged up, practically an invalid, and could not work.

My mom brought him to live with us.

My step-dad was still living with us.

From what I ‘heard’ at the time, my dad had nowhere to go, and my mom felt she had to help him because he was ‘the father of her children.’

From what I ‘heard,’ my step-dad reluctantly agreed but put his foot down after a few months: him or me?

My step-dad lost and moved out.

Sickness

After my step-dad had left, my dad stayed. He recovered and went back to work.

Whenever one of us would get sick, the school called my dad because he was self-employed and had a more flexible schedule than my mom, a police officer in Pulaski County (Little Rock).

One day I got sick, and the office called my dad. He came and picked me up. I was so sick I could barely listen to him, but all the way home he got onto me about faking being sick so I could miss school.

I honestly do not remember if I faked being sick to get out of school. It is possible because I was struggling to fit in during elementary, but I do not remember either way.

We went home, and I went to bed. I did not get up until after 7 pm. I was still sick and didn’t want to eat.

My dad said, “Well, I guess I was wrong. I guess you really are sick,” and then laughed.

That was the only time in my life I ever remember my dad admitting he was wrong and half-apologizing.

I also do not remember ever having to call him again to pick me up from school for being sick.

Devil You Know

I had a friend who lived down the street in Alexander. We were the same age and in the same class. She had a twin, though they looked nothing alike.

They lived with their mother and grandfather.

She would always tell me how her grandfather would verbally and physically abuse her. How he never got onto her sister, but was on her constantly. She would often cry about it.

When I would visit, I never saw her grandfather raise a hand to her, but it was obvious even to me that he seemed to be really loving to her sister and always yelled at her for everything.

I told my mom. She being a police officer, I thought she could help. I told her about the abuse and asked her to do something about it.

My mom explained to me that if the police became involved, they would likely remove my friend from her family and put her with a strange family, a foster family. My mom said my friend had to be sure she wanted the police involved.

I told my friend what my mom said. My friend said she would rather stay with her family, even if it was bad.

Later my mom explained that the police would likely remove both children but would not keep the children together, particularly due to their advanced age (all of 10, maybe). She also said their life might be worse if they went to a foster family, that bad things often happen to kids in foster homes.

Over the years it never got better for my friend, I did witness how bad it was a little. She would sometimes talk to me about it but always made me promise not to tell my mom because she did not want to be taken away.

I had a lot of confusion around the situation. For a long time, I did not understand why she would want to stay with a grandfather who abused her and a mother who let it happen.

A few years later I came to understand it: 1) Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, and 2) Every child holds hope that things will get better, that they will do “better,” and their family will love them.

I have never come to understand how the system does not keep siblings together, and often bad things happen to kids in foster care.

Softball

With the arrival of my dad, we were introduced to softball. Two of my sisters and I joined teams. The first year, we were each in different age brackets, so different teams.p_v13ak2few650961

My first team had a young man and woman who were a couple, not sure if dating or married. All of us were just learning to play. I am sure our coordination skills were hilarious to watch.

I fell in love with the sport. It was like my meditation. As I grew up, softball was the only thing that helped me keep my sanity. When I was on the field, nothing else mattered – no matter what crazy things might be going on in my life.D child pic4

I totally took the game seriously, not so much the winning and losing but the always striving to do my best and learn better skills.

My second year, my older sister and I were on the same level. My dad decided to coach the team and got us both. Each year the team members were chosen by the coaches, my dad had first preference for us because he was our dad.

My dad had a dream.

His dream was a sister act – one daughter pitcher and one daughter catcher. He chose my sister as the pitcher and me as the catcher.

Unfortunately, I was scared of the bat. I hated being behind home plate with the bat swinging. I felt the catcher’s face mask obstructed my view, which also made me scared of the ball – something I had not been before.

Our team was not impressive. Another team, with the coach Hayse LeMay, was the AllStar team. They were the AllStar team because it was stacked – meaning Mr. LeMay was very powerful with the leadership and made sure he only had the best players.

I once watched him beat another unimpressive team to a pulp. Usually, the rule was that after five innings, if the score was too far ahead, the game would be called. In this game, the score was crazy high to zero. The umpires wanted to call the game, and the opposing team was obviously emotionally depleted, but Mr. LeMay insisted on playing the entire seven innings. The score was like 99 to 0 at the end – the team just stopped trying due to their humiliation.

It was the worst display of unsportsmanlike behavior I have ever witnessed.

We also played against Mr. LeMay’s team. I guess his team didn’t take us that seriously. At any rate, were in the second half of the seventh inning with two outs, two people on base, and we were one point ahead.

All we needed to win was one out.

The next up to bat was a girl who had hit the ball over the fence many times, resulting in a home run. The girl after her couldn’t hit the ball if you held it still in front of her face. She was an absolutely sure ‘out.’

I motioned for my sister to have a meeting on the pitcher’s mound. I told her, “Walk her.” She said, “No, then the bases will be loaded.” I responded, “But look who’s up next. You know she can’t hit but she always swings, so she is an easy out. We can win the game.”

My sister was adamant that she would not walk the heavy hitter.

She pitched the first pitch, perfect strike, and the batter hit it almost to the fence, which was over the heads of all the outfielders. Our outfielders were our weakest players anyway. By the time they got the ball and clumsily threw it toward the infield, all three runners had passed home base.

I went straight up to my sister and told her she lost the game.

She went straight to my dad and told him what I said.

My dad not only got onto me for saying “such a mean thing” to my sister but promptly spanked me when we got home.

Unfairness and unpredictability were the lessons I always got from my father. You never knew how he would react to anything.

But considering he didn’t understand the strategy of the game either, no wonder our team was a disaster.

Fortunately, the next year my sister moved up to the next age level, so we were never on the same team again. My dad continued going to, and helping out, both of my sister’s teams until he disappeared again. He never had any interest in my games.

Who You Know

I was never paddled during school, and it was still practiced then – all the way through high school in fact. I remember hearing the paddle in the hallway while we were in class. The sound was loud and would echo. Just the sound was frightening; I can’t imagine what it felt like.

It was a wooden paddle, flat and long. I heard once that some teachers had paddles with holes in them for additional pain. I never saw a paddle close up, so I cannot say if that was true.

Once we were at recess. One of my friends needed to go to the bathroom. We went to the teacher on duty and asked for permission. She refused. My friend said she really had to go, bad.

So we snuck into the school and went to the bathroom. We then returned to recess.

One of the older kids saw us and reported to the teacher.

We were taken out of class to the hallway. My teacher, Mrs. Halpine, and another teacher, Mrs. Lahnam were talking about whether to paddle us. It went on and on.

Finally, Mrs. Lahnam turned to me and said she knew my sister, the one just older than me. She said she was an excellent child, and she was disappointed that I was not like her.

Mrs. Lahnam was not only a fifth-grade teacher who had my sister in her class, but she actually lived a block away from Watson Elementary, where we used to go to school. By coincidence, my sister and her daughter had been classmates and friends at Watson Elementary – and had continued to be friends through middle school after we moved to Bryant.

Mrs. Lahnam said she would let us off because she knew my sister.

Sometimes connections are good.

In this case, it was – not so much once I entered Mrs. Lahnam’s fifth-grade class.

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