The Third Grade Phonics Queen

The Third Grade Phonics Queen

I loved phonics. There should be awards for the love of things upon this earth. Not for how far we excel in the subject at hand, but for how much we love the subject. My award would have been the Love of Phonics award. 

On the other hand, someone needed to save me from social studies. It was the most boring subject there ever was. My trophy would have been the Daydreamer trophy, because dreaming about something else was my only coping measure. 

In high school, I was not fond of the class where the word “dissection” was used. I wasn’t good at the “hands-on” part of class. I was the one who sat on the tall classroom chair and read the instructions out loud so someone else would know what they were to do and get that part of the work done.   

The smell of the preservatives was awful. It was probably I who suggested we make things smell better. So our preserved fish, which we worked on from one day to the next, became more awful when someone put perfume on it. More than forty years later, I haven’t forgotten not being of any help in that classroom. Especially with a fish that smelled like perfume.

My husband still brings up the story where I was the one who was of no help. It’s a story about the hanging of garland at our house. Apparently I told him I’d be there and be helpful.

It all started when we drove past a bank in Bryan.  Oh, the beautiful garland adorning the front of the building, draped from one column to the next. My husband was agreeable to the purchase of the garland. We could make our house look like that bank. He claims I said I would help with the work.  It’s apparently one of those times in his life when he should have received the trophy for being the one who did all the work.

I didn’t remember the story whatsoever.  Apparently the girls in our household spent very little time outside assisting with the decorating. My husband was the one on the ladder. He found himself abandoned at some point. He finished the work by himself.   

There were several Decembers in which the house really did look like a stately bank. Sometimes it was described as “the country club.” Or “the White House.” But the day came when the garland draped from one column to the next would be no more. The tall ladder would no longer be needed. The many white lights and yards of garland were donated somewhere else.

It really was quite sad. 

When I was a child, the holidays didn’t roll around as quickly as they do now. I remember when the boxes of holiday decorations were being unpacked. It was fun to see the items once again. In my mind, our decorations were already “old,” but that was part of the nostalgia. 

In my parents’ collection of photos is a picture of Santa climbing a ladder at the Vernon Kimpel residence. Apparently someone in the household had decided to create a scene of Santa making his way into our house. 

Inflating the picture helps us see that someone had taken the time to stuff a red shirt and red pants. Santa was given a pair of black boots that had been secured to the ladder with rope. He was carrying a cloth newspaper delivery bag which, of course, is something every Santa needs for his toys.   

I wonder whose idea this was. Which sibling wanted to do this? What did they stuff the stuffed Santa with? When people drove past our house, what did they think? If I were to drive past such a scene today, I would likely laugh and later ask others if they saw that house with a Santa on a ladder. 

When the Santa photo is expanded, Jeanette and I can be seen peering out the window. There’s snow on the ground.

If I could go back in time, I’d like to see who did all the work. I imagine Dad helped make it happen.  Someone stuffed the Santa, got the ladder out, found some rope to secure Santa to the rungs, and placed the ladder against the house. Someone took a picture.  And fifty years later, I’m using my phonics skills to write about it.

Back in the ’70s, we didn’t have electronics to keep us occupied. We looked for something to do. I’d like to think today’s children haven’t changed – they still like to play. And they still daydream. Given the chance, most children would be excited about helping design and engineer a Santa scene. 

They’ll learn where their skills are. They may be the one who comes up with the idea in the first place. They’ll talk about how neat it will be. They’ll give encouragement to the one who is doing the hands-on work. Or maybe they’ll go in the house and watch out the window. Any way you look at it, all of us deserve a trophy for the part we play in such a project.

There are times in life we’ll walk away with the I Did All The Work trophy – which we know exists only in our heads but allows us to mentally inflate the trophy to match the level of work we think we did.

There are organizations that hand out “participation” trophies. All you have to do is show up for an event, and a trophy is handed to you in acknowledgment of your participation. For you know, we wouldn’t want to miss out on being recognized for our contribution of just showing up. 

Such is life – just show up. Participate. All of us know there are trophies to be earned along the way. It’s true we don’t have to be the best at what we do, we just have to figure out how best to do our part in what we love to do.

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