I almost forgot about Friday Fiction! Here's my contribution. If you've ever suffered elementary angst--the odd one out--the unpopular one, you'll be able to relate to this story! I wrote it for Faithwriter's Writing Challenge when the topic was "bridge". Head on over to Rick's Pod Tales and Ponderings blog to add your own story or read more great fiction. Happy reading!
©By Dee Yoder
In 1963 I was a scrawny, knobby-kneed girl with stringy hair and a perpetual squint (My parents would find out in 1966 that I was as blind as a bat). I started first grade with a distinct disadvantage in that I’d been living in the boondocks and couldn’t attend kindergarten. I didn’t know anything about school, and I proved myself as inept as I felt during the first month or two.
By the time November came, I was more knowledgeable about the caste system of the American elementary school. I knew I was definitely not in the cool, rich, or teacher’s pet groups. I was smack in the middle of mediocrity in all ways, socially and academically, except for one thing: I could read like a fiend.
On the first day of school the teacher had discovered my prolific reading ability and had promptly passed me through three reading circles, right to the top of the class. I was proud of myself for weeks until I realized that being among the nerdy readers plunged my mediocre popularity status straight to the bottom of the heap.
Though I was humiliated, I knew I couldn’t give up reading, so I began to look around for something that would bump my rank up a notch or two. That’s when I noticed the girls in uniform, the Brownies.
When they came to class in their little brown uniforms with their beanie Brownie caps, they walked with an air of authority and elementary mystique. This observance prompted me to approach the most popular girl in class at lunch one day.
“Um…I’d like to join the Brownies. Which teacher do I ask?”
I stared. She chewed. Finally, with a sigh and a jerk of her Brownie beanie-topped head, she reluctantly pointed her haughty finger toward the sponsoring teacher.
After obtaining the information I needed, I couldn’t wait to get home and ask my parents about joining. They gave me the Ok, but I couldn’t get a Brownie uniform. Mom thought it would be wasteful until I got in Girl Scouts because the uniform is the same for years after that. Well, that killed about two-thirds of the cool factor, but I was still hopeful of climbing the social ladder a rung or two.
The first meeting I attended was the beeswax candle-making session, and I soon discovered that sitting at the back of the room meant I couldn’t see the directions written on the board. I spent the night stealing surreptitious glances to figure out what I was supposed to be doing to the bumpy, waxy rectangle, lying flat in front of me. My candle turned out floppy and loose, which let the wick drop out of the bottom before I could even get it home. Mom was nice, but puzzled, when I handed her my waxy tube.
Not such a good start and, really, the rest of the year was just as dismal. I was the only one that sold a single box of GS cookies (to my parents, of course), the only one who kept dropping the egg in the Egg Race game, the only one who couldn’t recite the Brownie pledge without peeking in the book, and the only who didn’t have a Brownie beanie perched proudly atop her head.
But I kept going, and it was finally time for the “Flying Up” ceremony, in which I would walk solemnly across a fake bridge, kneel down by a mirrored fake pond, and recite the GS pledge. Then I would get my Brownie pin and officially be a Girl Scout.
On the auspicious night of the Flying Up ceremony, my knobby knees were knocking like a bad engine. I waited nervously at the edge of the bridge, and when my turn came to cross it, I stumbled and slid on my knees to the edge of the “pond”. Even the teacher laughed, though she tried not to.
I was so flummoxed that I couldn’t remember my pledge, and after two minutes of painful silence, I was allowed to “fly up” out of mercy. A Mercy Girl Scout. Ugh.
That summer, my dad was transferred for his job and I was relieved to know that I’d get a fresh start in a different school in the fall. I learned my lesson about social climbing, and though I didn’t get my Brownie beanie cap, I still have my pin. It’s tucked away in a box with the unfortunate wax tube.
Awwww! Poor thing! LOL. I wanted so badly for her to just come out on top. You wrote her character so very well-and I loved the detail of the knobby knees.
I never thought about joining the Brownies (though my brother joined the Cubs). I simply went out and gathered up all the rest of the outcasts and started my own group. I could identify with this. The move was a life-saver.
Great characterization and elementary school angst. I was DEFINITELY one of the left-out ones and could clearly relate.
Well done, Dee! I am just so sure that God has good reasons for allowing so many of us, His children, to experience the woes of unpopularity. Finally learning that it isn't really all it's cracked up to be anyway is refreshing and liberating!
You know, this makes me wonder if having been one of the "outcasts" has anything to do with being writers. Maybe we sucked at sports and other such popular pursuits because God had something better in mind for us...
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