This week I took a step outside of my horror box and wrote a true story about a happy childhood memory..
My Happiest Elementary School Memory
I remember one thing about grade school above all other events and people. This memory even trumped the crush I had on my fourth grade teacher. I don’t remember her name but I made sure that I’d get into trouble a little often so I would have to stay after school to write some sentence of repentance on a dusty chalkboard fifty times. All the while, sneaking glances at my beautiful teacher-but that is another story.
What I remember most vividly about grade school happened in first grade on the last day of school.
It was a cloudless warm, picture perfect kind of day. The stuff of postcards.
Tucked back in the Reading Corner was a stuffed Mickey Mouse that was bigger than I was, bigger than just about everybody in my class. Mickey was sewn up with red shorts, matching red suspenders, and a yellow shirt. He had huge eyes that always captivated my attention and fantasies when I looked into them. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. He seemed so real, I always thought, so happy.
The last hour of each day we had quiet time, where we all sat on the floor, under the desks, on the desks; wherever. Not everyone, one lucky kid got to sit with Mickey in a large artificial fireplace. The teacher would then read, very dramatically. Usually short stories that she could finish in a single session. Once or twice, she read longer tales, whole novels even.
The best thing she read to us was a book called The Phantom Tollbooth.
We switched off cuddling with Mickey, so the whole class had grown very attached him.
On the last day of school, the teacher had an overwhelming surprise party planned. She brought in cake, ice cream, and games. It was fun, but we were all going to miss Mickey’s love. I am not exaggerating one bit: some of the students were actually crying. Miss Clark, our dear teacher, stood over by the white fireplace and told us she had one more big surprise.
Slopping down the final bits of the chocolate ice cream, our spoons froze in midair. I don’t even think anyone was breathing. What could top this party?
She explained to us that Mickey had been living with her six years and it was time to retire the faithful reading companion. Next year, she announced, she would have a brand new bright, yellow Donald Duck.
That’s our surprise? I thought in dismay. How mean! I thought I was going to cry.
“No,” she said as if reading our minds, “That is only the news.”
The surprise, she told us, was that the Mickey doll was going to be given away to one of us. Joyous chaos erupted, cheers spread through the classroom.
My little heart was pounding and I stared lovingly at my stuffed friend.
She told us she had previously made two sets of numbered cards- 1 thru 48. One set was passed out; the other set was mixed up inside a green and yellow baseball cap.
“I’m going to draw a number out of the hat. If I pick your number, you win Mickey!” Miss Clark said with a brilliant smile.
Like leeches, we all swarmed around our teacher, who held the cap in her dainty hands. The other first grade teacher was to do the honors of causing utter havoc amongst us children: she was to draw the lucky number. The number bestowed The Greatest Thing In The World to a single winner and new owner of Mickey! A new owner, I thought, that might be me!
I hoped dearly.
My little fists tightly clenched together, securely protecting the tiny slip of paper with my number written on it. I didn’t dare look at it. That would be bad luck. Sweat was beading on my long, blonde bangs resting on my forehead. The back of my neck was getting warm.
I was that excited.
“Shall we clean up our part first?” Miss Clark asked.
A loud synchronous “no” filled the room.
Finally, I opened my sweaty hand. I had to know what number I had. I kept saying my number repeatedly in my head like mantra. I crumbled the paper back into my fist. Mumbling the number as fast as I could, over and,
(her hand reached into the hat)
(she pulled out a small paper square)
(she looked at the number then nodded)
COME ON! my mind yelled over and over,
Why was she taking so long?
“Ten! The winning number is ten!” Her voice coated the crowd of turning heads. She scanned the room of whispering, excited kids. Curiosity. Jealousy. Disappointment. So many expressive faces.
All of that commotion vanished. I was suddenly alone in the room, detached from group. My face flushed as the blood rushed into my brain so fast I was dizzy with excitement. My wide blue eyes were locked straight into Mickey’s fabric-whites. I felt warm tears of joy running down my cheeks.
I vaulted from the floor and screamed in the happiest voice, “Me! I have ten!”
Copyright 2011 Erik Gustafson