I was excited that even though it was Friday, I didn’t have to go to school today. Mom said there were “parent-teacher conferences” instead of a regular school day, and she walked to my school, instead of me and David, to meet my teacher Mrs Larkin and see my classroom. She also talked to David’s kindergarten teacher, who she already knew. Dad “had the car” and had gone to his “Eastern” place to do his teaching this morning, but would be back by lunchtime. So while mom was gone too, she said I was “in charge”, like a babysitter. I thought that was pretty neat.
David and I went over to Allmendinger park to play. I was worried since I was in charge of him that maybe I’d have to go just to where he wanted to go. But when he saw his friends Hannah and Jimmie he said he wanted to go play with them and I didn’t have to go with him. I wasn’t sure if that was because he was helping me play with my own friends or helping himself play with his own friends without me watching. But either way it was better for me too.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Larkin, was different than all the other teachers I had had. I mean, she was a regular grownup like my third grade teacher Mrs Rodney and my second grade teacher Mrs Camden. My first grade teacher, Miss Zimmerman, didn’t even seem like a real grownup. She was more like a really older kid, like Margie but even older, or like one of dad’s “college students”.
Mrs Rodney and Mrs Camden seemed like they had one way to teach you stuff and you had to do it that way and then they liked you and gave you good grades. But Mrs Larkin seemed like she was always looking for different ways to do things and was interested if you had a different way of learning something. Like learning about plants. When Amanda suggested that we all bring in plants we found, a leaf from a tree, a flower, or even just a piece of grass, Mrs Larkin would help us figure out what kind of plant it was and stuff about how it worked, what it did in the winter, stuff like that.
“Cooper, wake up”, dad whispered, and I felt something shaking my foot under my covers, “Molly’s here and it’s time for your big trip.” I had trouble opening my eyes and figuring out what was going on. Everything was dark, but then I remembered they would be here super early to pick me up.
I was extra happy that day third grade was finally done. The last day of school each June was already my favorite day of the year, even better than Christmas or my birthday. On those two days I got presents, usually neat toys and games, but having two and a half months without having to go to school was even better than presents. Since that day in April when Joey told everybody in class that I’d “pull down my pants for Mary”, I hadn’t wanted to go to school AT ALL.
But I had to, because that’s what kids were supposed to do, and also so mom and dad wouldn’t try to figure out what had happened, and they’d still think I was a really good kid. Mary and Diane sure thought I was a bad kid, and the other girls would tease Mary about seeing me naked, though she never did. And her best friend Diane would say bad things about me at recess, like I was a “pervert” or something. I wondered if my school friends, like Gabe, Herbie, Jake and Amanda thought I was bad or even a “pervert” too, even though they were still friends with me. Joey wasn’t my friend anymore. I still wouldn’t talk to him and he had stopped trying to talk to me. I’m glad mom and dad didn’t know that Joey HAD been my friend, because then they wouldn’t ask why I didn’t play with him anymore.
It was Sunday afternoon after my birthday party yesterday. After so many days of winter when it was mostly always cold, the air was finally really warm, and had that special energy in it. Mom said you could smell the plants coming alive, and I think she was right.
I was over at Joey’s house. We had both just played in what the older kids called a “pickup” baseball game at Allmendinger Park. That was where two of the older kids decided to be the captains, and the other kids decided that that made sense, and then the two of them took turns picking the other kids that wanted to play to be on their teams. Most of the kids were older than we were, so we got picked last. But we both liked baseball, and were pretty good at catching and throwing and hitting, so we didn’t mind being picked last as long as we could play.
“So what you doing in math these days, mister Clubius?” mom asked as I was eating a baloney sandwich I had made for myself in the kitchen, and she was making a “big pot of spaghetti sauce for dinner” on the stove. It smelled good, kind of burned but like it was going to be really tasty. Mom LOVED math, so I figured I’d tell her all the different stuff.
“We’re doing multiplying and dividing, and still doing those times tables”, I said.
“Ach”, mom said. That was a word she used sometimes when she didn’t like something. She said it was German for “Oh dear” or “ugh”.
“Those times tables”, she said, shaking her head slowly as she stirred the big silver pot with the spaghetti sauce bubbling in it, “God I remember them. Boring rote memory. Mrs Cranbrooke.”
I woke up and I could hear the rain tapping on the window by my bed. Not hard like a storm, but just a little bit like what mom called “showers”. I always liked waking up on Saturday morning, because I didn’t have to go to school today or even tomorrow, especially today because it would be cold and wet and windy. Though it was kind of fun to be all inside my raincoat and my hood looking out at wet everything. It was like the weather, “Mother Nature” mom said, was in charge today instead of the grownups.
Last night I was watching TV, but mom came down and said she wanted “to hear what President Kennedy has to say about what’s happening in Cuba.” Dad was already down in the basement at his desk. He turned around in his wood office chair to watch too.
That “news” show came on with that Walter Cronkite guy. When the TV showed him, he turned his head and looked out of the TV at us.
Cronkite: Please standby for a statement by President Kennedy on the evolving situation in Cuba.
I was listening to songs on the radio a lot now. There were three songs this summer that I had heard a lot on the radio and were interesting because they were different from each other. Two of them were sung by what sounded like older kids.
The first they said on the radio was sung by this girl called “Little Eva”, so that seemed like a kid name to me. It was on that “CKLW” station at the “8” on the radios, and it was one of those dancing songs, like all those “twist” songs I kept hearing. I even heard kids in the park sometimes singing the song.
Everybody’s doin’ a brand new dance, now
(Come on, baby, do the Loco-Motion)
I know you’ll get to like it if you give it a chance now
(Come on, baby, do the Loco-Motion)
My little baby sister can do it with me
It’s easier than learning your ABCs
So come on, come on
Do the Loco-Motion with me
It was Saturday and mom drove me over to Molly’s house, but this time she didn’t “drop me off” but stayed too, to talk to Molly’s mom. Mom told other grownups that Molly’s mom was her “good friend”. I wondered if she was mom’s best friend too, since mom talked to her more than any of the other grownup women she knew, though not as much as when she and Molly lived across the street.
School was finally over and it was “summer break”, that’s what my teacher called it. Mom called it “summer vacation”. Whatever it was, I was really happy that I didn’t have to go to school, at least for a while, until September, which mom said was “two and a half months from now”. She said you could write “two and a half” in two different ways, as a fraction or as a “decimal”. I knew the fraction way. She showed me the decimal way, where you put the “2” and then a period and then a “5” after the period. She said the “5” after the period was “five tenths”, which she said was the same fraction as one half.