2nd grade… Montfort School… a quaint little white schoolhouse with just 7 classrooms one for each grade.
Following two amazing years… one with ‘TO’ in Kindergarten and 1st grade with Mrs. Bouchard… came 2nd grade.
We sat in rows in our 2nd grade classroom. Facing the chalkboard. We were told not to speak. A definite challenge for me on a daily basis. We were given lots and lots of workbook pages and those pages were quickly finished. So what was a child to do? I turned and chatted with my neighbors. Did not matter who my neighbor was? Boy. Girl. Best friend. Or quite honestly, my greatest foe. I talked to them. I was a distraction.
We were asked to hand in our Dr. Spello books, the epitome of a workbook. Page after page of phonics tasks. Long vowels. Short vowels. Compound words. Antonyms. Synonyms. Fill in the blanks. Multiple choice. No thinking… just get it done. Every Friday we turned them in… and they were returned on Monday with red marks showing our errors.
Monday morning. Waiting for my book. And I didn’t get one.
“Peggy, you did not turn in your book on Friday. Take it out of your desk and turn it in now,” Mrs M said to me.
I quickly bent down to search my desk. I knew I had turned it in. I was nothing if not dutiful! It was not there. I sheepishly raised my hand.
“Yes?!” she questioned with a tone that would make any 2nd grader cower.
“It’s not in my desk,” I responded.
“Then you must have left it home. You will stay in for recess every day until you find it,” she replied without looking up from her papers.
I watched as everyone entered the coat room to grab their jackets, gloves, and hats and headed out for recess. The afternoon was incredibly long as I waited to run home to search for my book.
As I rushed into the front door, tossed my backpack on the ground, and ran towards my bedroom, I gave my mother a quick wave of hello.
I searched. Under my bed. On my dresser. Under my chair. Under my dresser. Between the bed and the wall. Nothing.
I returned to the kitchen and asked my mother if she had seen it. No, she had not. We had a system for doing homework. Things were just not left laying around. I went into the closed in porch in the back of the house. I sometimes did homework in there. Rarely. But there was a chance. Again, I lifted things. Tossed things. Searched above and below all things. Nothing.
What on Earth would I do? I could not miss recess again! I returned to the kitchen and scanned once more. Then I attempted searching the family room. I knew it wasn’t there. I never did homework in the family room. I knew I didn’t have it. I knew it had to be at school somewhere. But where?!
After much fruitless searching, my mother called us to dinner and I shared my horrible day. My parents both told me that the book was my responsibility and if I went to the teacher to explain they were certain she would understand. Here’s the again… I knew different. She would not understand. But I prepared myself for the inevitable.
In the morning, I began searching the classroom. I searched the coatroom. Maybe I had dropped it. I searched the bookshelves along the windows. Nothing there either. My desperation was growing. Where could it possibly be? I started to go to my friends’ desks asking them to search to see if perhaps they had two books! Nothing.
As recess approached, my dread just increased. The book was gone. How many recesses would I lose? After all the children had exited the room, I quietly walked up to the teacher’s desk.
“Excuse me, Mrs. M? I have searched everywhere. And I can’t find my book anywhere. I really do think I handed it in on Friday,” I said with as much courage as I could muster.
“So, you think I have it?” she replied staring into my frightened blue eyes.
“No, not really,” I replied without hesitation, “it’s just that I can’t find it anywhere and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“What you are going to do is stay in for recess until you find it. That should be motivating for you.”
The dread filled me. Tears began to threaten to fall. I was going to be in for recess for all of 2nd grade. This was definitely going to be the worse year ever.
When I returned home, I shared my story with my mom. I needed help. She reassured me and told me she would send a note in with me in the morning explaining that the book was not home and perhaps we could buy another.
I walked in the next morning with a new found hope. She couldn’t say no to my mother. We could buy a new book. My social life would be restored. I would be back playing hopscotch or marbles today!
As I approached my desk, I saw something on it. It was purple. Could it be? I wondered if my mother called her. She already had the new book for me?
I walked quickly towards my seat and saw the bent edges of the cover. Oh no, this was not a new book. This was my book. How could it be? Where had it been?
I looked up at Mrs. M for an indication of how this miracle had occurred. Without meeting my eyes, she glanced up and said, “You can go to recess today. Your book was found.”
Before my eight year old brain could tell my eight year old mouth NOT to speak, I said, “But where? Who had it? Where was it? I searched everywhere!”
“I found it,” she said turning her back to me and my classmates and returning to the blackboard.
The class began as I sat stunned. The guilt. The sadness. The worry. The fear. For days. Had she had it all along? Where had she found it? I looked down at the purple cover and realized I would never know.