Sunday, June 27, 2010

Of Little Blisters And Dresses On Backwards......

My Dad came to get me from school for lunch and took me home on the back of his bicycle. Mum wasn't there when we got home and Dad told me she had gone to a special place in town to get us a baby sister. He promised to take me to see them after school. Then we had lunch and he took me back to school.

I was a quiet child, and shy. But this news was too huge to hold inside me! Breaking all the Senior Infants class rules, I left my seat and walked up to Miss McCarthy's desk, and whispered to her that I had a brand new baby sister and my daddy was going to take me to see her after school! To my mortification and astonishment, Miss McCarthy did not think this was a good enough reason to leave my desk without permission. She scowled at me and told me to return to my seat immediately. I crept back to my seat with a very red face. It was a cruel lesson, one I've remembered all these years. Anything nice that Miss McCarthy said to me, or anything encouraging or hopeful that I may have learned from her, were completely overshadowed by that scowl, and that dismissal of my wonderful news.

The OC had a similar experience. His family had just arrived in the U.S. from South America, where they had emigrated from post-war Europe when he was a baby. Having had his first few years of school in Argentina, he spoke fluent Spanish. He also spoke Ukrainian, which was his parents' native language and the main language spoken in their home. But,as yet, he did not speak English very well, though he was learning. His teacher asked him a question which he didn't understand, so she told him he was stupid.

My heart aches for that little boy, and for my six year old self, although the OC believes it is nonsense to dwell on such things. But I think events like these form and transform us. The wars and the toppling governments, the hurricanes and the tsunamis, the earthquakes and the collapsing bridges, the scandalous conduct of politicians, the abuses we are capable of inflicting on innocent children and defenseless animals all affect us greatly, but seemingly insignificant, personal events, like these, colour our thinking about who we are, about our place in the world and our value as human beings.

Imagine a world where everyone acted nobly; where no one abused the power they had over others. Imagine all children growing up confident that they are loved, and lovable, and worth listening to.....One day soon they will be the grown-ups. I doubt Miss McCarthy ever gave her sharp dismissal of my great news a second thought. Maybe she would be amazed that a woman, much older now than she was then, still remembers that day in Senior Infants. And if that insensitive NY teacher could see how un-stupid that little boy turned out to be, maybe she would have the grace to be ashamed.

Well! I seem to have gone off on quite the detour there. The Little Blister's birthday was last week, and that was what I intended writing about. Not that I was there to help her celebrate or anything so exciting! But it was a momentous day for me, the day she was born.

First of all, since Dad didn't have much of a clue about such things, I got to wear my dress the way I thought it should be worn. After school, I changed out of my school uniform and into a pretty cotton dress my mother had made for me. It wasn't until we got to the nursing home, and were admiring the new little sister, that my mother gave me an odd look, and asked my dad why I had my dress on backwards.

Secondly, it was the day my best friend was born. Of course, I didn't realize this until years later. I spent the first half of my life trying to give her the slip. I guess I was as much of an insensitive clod to her as Miss McCarthy was to me. Realizing the error of my cloddish, big sister ways, I have spent the second half of my life trying to spend as much time with her as possible. Which is problematical when you consider that pesky ocean that lies between us.

Even though she has not been blogging lately, she is still writing. She was recently short listed [out of 1500 entries!] in a flash fiction writing competition [Big sisters are allowed to brag!] Her duties at The Palace keep her on the trot and in spite of all my exhortations she steadfastly continues to un-blog. But I am not giving up hope.

And just so you know, even though my mum is no longer around to check on me, I don't wear my dresses backwards any more.

Have a great year Rise!

Note: That's us in the picture when I was home last year. She likes to think she's taller than me, but as you can see, she's standing on a rock. I rest my case.


Relatively Retiring said...

Belated Happy Birthday to the Little Blister.
Oh, the vivid memories of words and actions that sting - and go on stinging over the decades. We try so hard not to do it to others, but inevitably do so because That's Life.
Miss McCarthy had bad PMT, or had just learned that her boyfriend was double-timing her with a married woman, possibly the Headmaster's wife!

Stomper Girl said...

Happy Birthday to Rise.

My boy recently told me that of all his teachers, he liked me the best (I teach him tap on Saturdays) because I used praise to teach the class, not criticism. I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life, because as you say, we are so hurt when teachers are cruel to us and so inspired when they lift us up. So boo to that mean teacher of yours! A baby sister is exciting news, and you should have been given your moment.

Suse said...

What is it about our menfolk? When the mister brought Son #1 to visit me in the hospital when I'd just had Son #2, he had put the poor child's shorts on backwards.

I suspect I gave him a similar look to that given to your father.

(Word verif. is priest! Are you Irish Catholic by any chance?)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Rise! Hope you realise that you have a great doting older sister who clearly loves you though she prefers you to be shorter.

Thimbleanna said...

What a great post Molly! I try to not say stern things to children just for those reasons -- you never know just where they are at that moment, and your harsh comments might end up being a defining moment for them.

When we went to kindergarten orientation for our oldest, the principal told us that when our children reported on their day, we should take their comments with a grain of salt. She said that children bring all their experiences home from school in a sack -- the good things are like feathers and the bad things are like rocks. So, even if they had a wonderful day with tons of good things, one little unkind word or gesture would weigh that sack down and that's all that they would remember from their day.

I often think that happens to us as adults too. We let the little things drive us nuts. Thanks for the post Molly -- I'm off to try to figure out how to dismiss the little things that have been nagging at me! ;-)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...


*LOVE* this!! First, you are so very right about people and events leaving indelible marks on our lives such as happened to you both (and boy I'd sure like to give both of those women a piece of my mind) but the ripple effects never really fade, do they?

Second, Happy Birthday Rise!!

I live far from my sister, my best friend, too, so I know how awful that is and how precious time with them is. Isn't it amazing to have a friend that wonderful?

I'm so glad that you have one.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Pauline said...

laughing at "little blister" - it is so true that we don't pay nearly enough attention to the way our words and deeds are perceived. My mother always told me to be kinder than necessary and I would not go far wrong. Seems Miss McCarthy and the OC's teacher could have benefitted from that bit of advice...

Happy Birthday to Rise and congratulations on her writing achievements. I keep checking her blog, just in case!

StitchinByTheLake said...

It's not just small children who get spoken to cruelly Molly - even teenagers have it happen to them. When I was mentoring teachers I used to talk to them about that all the time. My sister is my best friend and I can't imagine being without her. We have both confessed that we (separately) have asked God to let us be the one to die first so we don't have to face that grief. I wonder what He'll do with those requests! :) I think that's kind of like my husband and I cancelling out each others vote in any given election! blessings, marlene

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a wonderful post, Molly! (Yes, anyone can see that Rise's side of the rock is wayyyy higher than yours.)

I am so sorry that Miss McCarthy had no heart for children, and that another teacher was mean-spirited and stupid enough to label a child who hadn't yet learned English stupid. It's truly horrifying that such people are entrusted with young minds and spirits, and some of them are even parents, and can do great harm daily to the small beings they are supposed to love and protect.

I'm thrilled to hear Rise's wonderful news, and do believe she must be forgiven for not blogging, although we dearly miss her. Happy Birthday, Rise! Be very kind to your wonderful self and do please remember that we are here whenever you are free to return to us.

Julie's Journey said...

It is a pity that people in power (teachers, doctors etc) dont think before they speak and it is a pity that it isnt part of every school's curriculum. Off my high horse now (actually a shetland pony) and agree with you that sisters are wonderous beings. I would be lost without mine.

secret agent woman said...

It's especially distressing to me when teachers, who we trust to care for our kids, treat children cruelly.

I'm really struck by the fact that you were school-aged when your sister was born and hadn't been made aware of how babies really get here. My two year old used to sit with his hand on my growing belly and we'd talk about his brother who was inside waiting to be big enough to be born. Times have changed.

BrightenedBoy said...

Happy birthday to your sister. Your bond must be strong if it can endure literally an ocean of separation.

Those horrible teachers are not as frequent as they once were, but probably more frequent than people today realize. I will never forget the wanton, pointless cruelty shown me by one instructor I had in the sixth grade.

I've often wondered why so many teachers seem to just really dislike children. Ought they then to be in a different profession?

Ali Honey said...

Somehow i seem to have missed this post.
I sincerely hope that I never made any child I taught feel like that. We are talking 1960 and 70s, so things were a lot more relaxed.
But it's true one does remember those things, luckily also the good things.