Family: My father and I loved to watch the variety shows. We would sit in front of the TV for hours watching The Dinah Shore Show, Red Buttons, Jimmy Durante and Ted Max. We watched them all, usually while we watched we ate popcorn and drank Kool-Aid. although sometimes we ate genoa salami. When we ate the salami we drank iced water, Daddy said I made the best iced water. It was while we were watching the Ted Max Amateur Hour that I fell in love with Julius La Rosa. When he sang, ‘when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie it’s amore’, my heart melted. Although I truly loved Julius and vowed that I would one day marry him it was the Rockettes that fully occupied my imagination. I couldn’t get enough of those beautiful ladies prancing around in their feathered bathing suit get-ups, and their extraordinary plumed headdresses.
When Daddy laughed at Red Button’s silly jokes I laughed too; not because I thought that the jokes were so funny but because nothing made me happier than the sound of my father’s laughter. All in all my dad was full of laughter, jokes and foolishness. My mother however was all business, no foolishness what-so -ever. Mom was a good and kind church going lady, everyone loved her, Daddy adored her. He seldom went to church, but my mother made certain that my brothers and I were regular church goers. . . each and every single time the church doors were open there we were. Actually I really enjoyed church time. There was lots of singing and plenty of time to look out the window, daydream and indulge in church thoughts. That was a big drawing point for me. What I really enjoyed the most was when the choir sang Praise God from whom all blessings flow as the deacons passed the collection plate. Yes, that was my all time favorite, however. . . I thought that if the preacher could get the Rockettes to dance down the aisle and pass the collection plate, instead of the musty old deacons doing it, he would get a lot more collection.
Friends etc.: I squeezed in beside Jean Ann at her desk. We were both pretty skinny, so I figured we could both fit into the one seat. Besides the entire first session class was still sitting in their seats, so I really didn’t have much of a choice. Mister Vorus (the most feared sixth grade teacher in the history of Forest Hills Elementary School) sat at his desk twirling his pen between his fingers. Then he stopped twirling the pen and tapped the dreaded write a note home to your parents tablet. Most everyday he just tapped the tablet but when he was feeling particularly cranky he would announce to the class that he really felt like writing a note home and he would be looking for his chance. Jean Ann looked at me, I held my breath. He didn’t say it, maybe he didn’t feel like writing any notes today. Then he spoke.
“Okay class, I want a three page essay on my desk tomorrow about what happened in here today, front and back. Joyce, do you have anything to say? Should I write a note home? he pulled the tablet closer.
“I guess if you feel like it.” I mumbled. A wave of gasps rolled across the room, all eyes were on me. What was the big deal? I was just trying to be polite. Mister Vorus scribbled a note home for both Jean Ann and me.
My mother was hanging clothes on the clothes line when I got home from school. I looked at the note that Mister Vorus had written. I would not be allowed back in class unless she accompanied me the next day. Like I didn’t know that meant it would be a big ‘ol conference between Mom and Mister Vorus, the principal and the Physical Ed coach; and for all I knew everyone else and the janitor. What I did know for sure was that I was going to be in big trouble, and so was Jean Ann. Probably her mother would tell her that she can’t ever hang around with me again; again for the umpteenth time. It wasn’t even all that bad I thought as I durged out to the back yard and over to the clothes line.
“Hi Sweetie, this morning there were six humming birds perched on the clothes line. They were so tiny I thought they were clothes pins.” She smiled and picked a towel out of the basket and hung it up. Then she turned to me. I handed her the note. I wanted to run back to my room lock the door and hide under my bed; but she had long since pounded the lock off the door with a hammer. Oh well, no place to run no place to hide, probably won’t be so bad anyway, maybe.
“What’s this?” it wasn’t a friendly what’s this. And she was in such a good mood before, with the humming birds and clothes pins and all. Oh geeze not good.
“It’s a note from Mister Vorus,” I looked at my feet. I didn’t make eye contact, I was afraid I might turn to stone if I did.
“This says that you can’t come back to class unless I bring you. What on earth did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything, really.” Still not making eye contact.
“You don’t bring a note like this home for not really doing anything. What happened Joyce?” Mom was relentless.
“I found a dragonfly on the playground.”
“And that’s what you are in trouble for? That’s ridiculous.”
“No Mother , I just said hi to Jean Ann through the window.”
“Oh, so you interrupted the class and got in trouble with Mister Vorus.”
“No, Mister Vorus wasn’t in the classroom.” I made eye contact for just a moment. It sounded like she was going to be reasonable this time. It looked like I could be wrong, time to abort. I quickly broke eye contact.
“Mister Vorus wasn’t even in the room? Joyce just tell me exactly what happened. Start from the beginning, no foolishness.” She hung up the last towel, leaned against the clothesline pole and seemed to brace herself.
“Ok this is what happened Mother,” I began.” I got to school really early today and the first session wasn’t out yet. So I walked around the playground for awhile. Then I found a dragon fly, he was dead, but he was the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. He was really huge, Mom.” My excitement was lost on her. “Anyway I picked him up and went and sat under the class room window. I was just sitting there under the window looking at him thinking what I would name him when Jean Ann came over to sharpen her pencil. I said hi Jean Ann and she asked me what I was doing. I lifted Bosco up so she could see him. That’s what I named him Bosco. I decided that would be a good name for him.”
“Why did you choose Bosco? That’s the dog’s name.” Her voice cracked.
“Well, I like Bosco but he’s the boys dog so I named my dragonfly Bosco so I would have a Bosco of my own. Don’t you like Bosco Mother?” Deflect defense.
“A dead dragonfly pet named Bosco Joyce? Of course I like Bosco why would you even ask that?” Mom was off topic, this was good. “Just tell me what happened, no more sidetracks Joyce.” Shucks back on topic, curses foiled again. So I continued.
“Then Jean Ann said to put it through the window so she could see it better. I said ok but for her to be careful and don’t break him because I was going to scare someone with him.”
“Who were you planning to scare Joyce?” Ah, good off topic again.
“Err um, Jimbo I was going to scare Jimbo when he was asleep. I was really planning on scaring mom by putting it on top of the dinner plates, but I decided to keep that gem to myself.
“You shouldn’t tease your little brother. Go on Joyce.”
“Well then I put it through the window.” I hesitated.
“Go on Joyce. I’m sure that isn’t the end of this story.” Mom shook her head. Her flaming red hair flounced. She looked at me over the top of her cat-eye glasses. She reminded me of Lucille Ball when Ricky is desperately trying to ‘splane something. I was going to mention that but decided that might be pressing my luck. I began again.
“Then Jean Ann took Bosco and held him up for the class to see and said, Hey, look at this. That’s when Todd grabbed Bosco away from Jean Ann and started chasing Margie around the room with him. He was running right behind her with Bosco in his hand , and you know she has that really long ponytail that goes all the way down to her waist. Well, Todd put the dragonfly into Margie’s pony tail. Then Margie really started screaming and running and shaking her head trying to get Bosco out of her hair. What she didn’t know was that he had gotten flung out and landed on Brenda. Then someone put Bosco down Brenda’s blouse, maybe it was Jean Ann, I don’t know. Anyway Brenda’s pretty chubby, and she has really big boobies. So when she started running all the boys started running after her because they wanted to see if Kleenex flew out of her bra. So there she was running and pulling at the neck of her shirt and screaming to high heaven. The boys were still running behind her but there were no Kleenexes that I saw. By then the whole class was running around back and forth in the room, except Mike. He was swinging around in the rafters like a trapeze guy, it was pretty neat. You know it’s a portable classroom, so it was really starting to rock. That’s when Old Miss Mendez came in. She took one look and turned around and ran to get Mister Vorus; what a tattle tale. I don’t even know how this is all my fault. I wasn’t even in there.”
“Where were you, Joyce? You’re too short to see into that window.”
“Oh, I pushed the playground trashcan to the window so I could put Bosco through and see in. I shouldn’t have done that. I knew he was going to get broken, darn it. And that’s how I scraped my knee.” I lifted the hem of my dress above my knee, I figured I should show the boo-boo now.
“Good lord, How did that happen and who bandaged it?” Mom, the ex army nurse was inspecting the dressing.
“The ambulance guys.” I whispered.
“What, who called the ambulance, and why?”
“The principal because I was stuck, kind of folded over, and they were afraid to move me. But I wiggled free before the guys got there so they just looked at me and said I was okay and bandaged my knee. See it’s alright.” I can-can kicked up my boo-boo leg to prove my point.
“Stuck? What do you mean, where were you stuck?”
“It’s like this Mom. When I saw Miss Mendez come in I tried to jump off the trash can real quick, but the lid flipped and I fell into the can. I was afraid to come out and anyway I was stuck in there. Then the coach and the janitor came over to get me out because they saw me fall in. But when they saw me all folded up in the can they didn’t know what to do next in case I was really hurt. Then the janitor ran to get the principal and the rest is history. Sorry Mom.” I finally made eye contact again. There was a tear welling up in my mother’s eye and she was biting her bottom lip. She slid down the clothesline pole to the ground. She sat under the clothesline that afternoon and laughed harder than I ever saw her laugh before. To this day I’m not really certain if it was genuine laughter or hysterics.