Do You Know What Stupid Looks Like?

Do you know what stupid looks like? I know. Stupid are the red tights with a hole in the knee and the brown mary-janes scuffed at the toe. Stupid is a red, green and blue plaid skirt with a white shirt and a red sweater. Stupid is mousey ginger hair, cut short like a boy’s and stupid is the name at the top of my paper...especially the name at the top of my paper.

 I sat my desk, wishing I were home, while my teacher standing next to me, circled the letter a’s on my page. My name had two red circles in it now. Stupid.

“How many times do I have to tell you that a lowercase "a" has a straight stick? A straight stick! It does not have a tail on it. This whole page is wrong. Correct it.”

 I closed my eyes, clenched my fists and again wished for home.  Not the home in the apartment building where my 2 year old brother and I played outside. Not where my mother reminded me to stay by my brother. Not where Mrs. MacDonald shouted from her window on the third floor that she would tell my mother when I picked flowers or turned on the outside tap to put water in my bucket of dirt.

 Instead, I wished to be in a distant home, a memory fading fast. I tried to hold onto that memory, but it grew more faded and was hard to conjure up. But I remembered it that day, sitting at my desk, palms sweaty and my paper a mess from my eraser trying to rub out the tails on my lowercase a’s. This is what Stupid looks like.

 “Now, look at the mess of your paper.”  She picked it up.  Rip. Neatly in two, as if she had years of practice doing such things. Here’s a new page, start over.”

 My name first.  The S, neat, well rounded, Silent, Stubborn and trying to look Smart.  But ah, the lowercase "a" appears and with it that determined, little tail- only to bring on the full blown fury of the teacher. Wrenched out of my seat by the tip of my ear between her thumb and fore finger and there I am standing before the entire class at the blackboard. Chalk in hand, I am now to print a row of lowercase a's for all to see. This is what Stupid looks like.

 My memory, where is it? It’s all I have. Her hands always smelled like lavender, her voice soft, with well rounded vowels and most definitely there was a tail on her a’s.  I could see my Grandma, in her garden, clipping roses, laughing and saying my name differently. “Sandra” then sounded “Saundra.” It sounded Smart, not Stupid. She was thousands of miles away in England and I was away from her.

All eyes were snickering when the teacher nearly blew another gasket. I looked at the board, there in the middle of my row of neat little a’s, made all with sticks, I had made a tail. I looked at the offending tail on the a, smiled to myself and turned towards the teacher, solemn eyed.

“That’s how my Grandma writes her a’s in her letters she sends me. I like them that way.”

“Well, your grandmother is wrong. You’ll write out a sheet of a’s for homework tonight.”

 Stupid, I thought. My teacher is stupid…

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