On Christmas, I received a huge chalkboard and a box of chalk. It was perfect – exactly what I needed. With this in the front of the living room, my classroom was complete. I handed out math worksheets – additions and subtraction problems I wrote on the backs of used office paper my father would bring home for me - and rewrote the problems on my new chalkboard.
“Two plus two?”
Who looked like they knew the answer - the little boy seated in the middle of the front row, the teddy bear to his left or the Baby Alive to the right? I wouldn’t really know until I collected the work and graded it. The papers would have to wait, however, it was time to make lunch.
In the kitchen, I put two round slices of bologna on a hot skillet. With my brother (that same little boy in my math class) at my elbow, we watched for the bologna to magically puff up, rounding into a small hill in the pan. When the edges were just perfectly browned, I flipped the slices out onto slices of white bread. This cooking thing was so easy.
We ate our fried bologna sandwiches in the blanket fort built in the hedges, then climbed the tree for a handful of pecans. We rode our bikes up and down the streets and to the end of the thin creek that ran through the neighborhood. In the small pool of water there, we lifted rocks to watch the crayfish scurry away to the next rock. We caught a few and placed them in an old paper cup, probably left behind by another bunch of kids for the very same purpose. Satisfied that we still had our crayfish catching skills, we set them all free again and resumed our bike ride.
Back at the house, I grabbed a book off my dresser and ran back to the swing set. I only had a few books in the house. My father must have picked them up from a school or library book sale, as they were the kind of literature textbooks in which the teacher would assign one of the stories and the questions at the end for homework. Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and a bunch of animals who were friends. I had read all of the stories many times over and already knew all the answers, so sitting on the swing, I only read the stories, I didn’t bother with the questions, anymore. As my mother called me in to get ready for dinner, I folded down the corner of a page so that I would remember to read that story to the little boy and the teddy bears for class tomorrow.
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