I think at this point it has been fairly documented that the wifie and the daughters have no problems whatsoever using sweetly spoken words to destroy every shred of my self esteem. Whether it be wifie not feeling bad about herself when she looks at me, or the girls struggling and failing to find a single good thing to say about me, or even the discussion of my paunch for fun, these girls know how to put me in my place.
But it is fair to to place the blame on them? Do I bear some of the responsibility for how my daughters turned out? Am I a “straight shooter” like I have accused them of being?
Riley recently reminded me of a past that has come to haunt me.
“Remember when you called that teacher a witch to her face?”
Well, that’s not exactly what happened. But its close enough to the mark to hurt. Let me explain.
When I was a child, I was one of those “good kids”. You know, the infuriating kids that always follow the rules, never disobey their parents, and tattle on the other kids that are wrongdoers. Yup, I’m the kid you hated when you were growing up. In fact, I’m pretty sure only my mom and dad loved me, as even my Grandma Doris, perhaps the sweetest lady to ever live, told my mom, “Its not natural, how good he is.”
To be fair, I more than made up for this in later years. But that’s another tale…
During first grade, my teacher at Greenwood Elementary, Mrs. Sonnenberg, was frequently absent. Our most common substitute was Mrs. Salek, who had more than a passing resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West, at least to my over-imaginative young mind. Despite her frightening appearance, she was always sweet to us children, and more than fair in every way.
But her appearance terrified. It cannot be denied.
So one day at recess, I was playing with my group of friends near the fence. Every day, we would gather together and play with He-Man action figures, all the rage those days. My time in the group was drawing to a close, though I didn’t know it, and that day I distinctly remember Prince Adam fighting Mer-Man for the affections of Teela, and this dialogue occurring:
Random boy that brought the action figures: “Yeah, so I saw Mrs. Salek is in your class again today.”
Me: “Yeah… Hey Mer-Man, Teela is mine!!!”
Another Boy: “Yeah, Salek is totally a witch!”
First boy: “Yeah, she is a witch. Just look at her.”
Me: ***Oh my… they are calling a teacher a witch… what should I say?***
Boy: “Don’t you think she’s a witch?”
Me: *** Do something to change the subject…***
Other boy: “What’s wrong with this kid?”
Me: “Umm… Prince Adam really needs to fight Mer-Man before recess ends, ok?”
Boys: *** grab He-Men and get up and walk away***
Me: ***sadness on the inside***
Once we were back in class, I felt so bad for Mrs. Salek. I mean, she was up there, going about her job with no idea that mean boys were talking about her being a witch. The selfsame boys who had expelled me from the He-Man group. It seemed too much of injustice for me to bear. As the “unnaturally good” kid, it seemed my duty to take action. As Mrs. Salek delivered the lesson, my path became clear to me. I knew what I had to do, even though we were in the middle of learning about vowels.
Me: *** hand raised high above my head***
Mrs. Salek: “Yes, dear?”
Me: “The kids outside said that you were a witch. I thought you should know.”
Mrs. Salek: “Oh. Oh my.”
Me: *** pride swelling from a job well done – are those tears of joy in her eyes? She must be so happy someone filled her in***
Yes, my daughters might well get their straight shooting from both of their parents.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for karma to catch up with me when I became a teacher. While I was substituting during my very first year, several students came up to me, having reached a decision to tell the teacher something important, just as I had way back in 1983.
“Mr. S, we have finally figured something out.”
I was intrigued. “What’s that?”
“We have finally figured out who you look like.”
“Oh really? Do tell.”
“Well, we’ve all talked about it, and we decided you look just like an unattractive version of Leonardo DiCaprio.”
“Oh. Oh my…”
“Umm… did you really think this would be news I wanted to hear?”
“Uh, yeah… Leo Dicaprio is a really nice looking guy…”
“And I’m the unattractive version of the nice looking guy…”
“Well, its just that your forehead is so big…”
Poor Mrs. Salek… if only I hadn’t opened my mouth so many years ago, and brought the curse of truth down upon me from so many different directions…