Friday, November 20, 2009

These Last Two Weeks of Summer

Two Bloggers, after Norman Rockwell

He was nine, nearly ten, and it was supposed to be the summer of his fourth grade year. Only it wasn't. His teacher, dissatisfied with his progress, recommended he spend June, July, and August being tutored. It was either that or repeat the entire grade. For his parents, the decision was simple; for him, instead of a nine-month-long anticipated parole, it meant his "sentence" had just been advanced three more.

His teacher -- the warden -- was old school and issues like penmanship were paramount. The l
aptop hadn't been invented and she was adamant. If handwriting wasn't legible, no one cared what you read or how well, you were still deficient and deficiencies would not be tolerated. Nor was his boredom during her daily noontime rehabilitation sessions or whatever it was she called reading stories aloud. He could do that for himself and preferred it at every opportunity, even if it meant sneaking a book and using the back of the student in front of him as camouflage. Until he was caught, that is, and brought back into the fold with stern warnings against taking the initiative.

So now, he thought, I'm paying for it, as he spent day after day in the "warden's" home, relearning arithmetic and wondering what that had to do with penmanship. Her husband was a quiet sort who rarely spoke. When the boy greeted him, his mouth moved but all that escaped were undertones. Perhaps he, too, had learned resistance was futile and had given in to silence, his speech as flawed as the boy's attempts to move his penciled hand across a page. Fellow inmates, they both knew too well.

It was the middle of August before he'd had enough, before anything was better than another day listening to her and wishing he could be anywhere else. With two weeks left in a summer that had dragged instead of flown, he was playing among friends and, knowing full well what he was doing, conveniently forgot the time. The sight of his father arriving to claim his errant son made his stomach turn over -- he knew what was coming. But nothing did and walking home, his father was as silent as the warden's husband, only thoughtful. "So, you're going to repeat fourth grade? It will be at a different school, you know. Different kids, a different teacher, nothing at all like this past year," he said, finally.

Feeling something he would one day describe as hope for the first time since the end of May, the boy agreed. "Well, that gives you some time," his father continued, "it may not seem like much, but you've earned these last two weeks of summer. " Nothing more was said but nothing needed to be, either. Everything that truly mattered was already understood.


("Two Bloggers -- After Normal Rockwell" Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr)

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