I ran across my 5th grade report card yesterday when I was emptying the last remains of the storage unit I’ve had for the past two and half years.
I know what you’re thinking – why did I save my 5th grade report card, right? You’d have to ask my dear departed mother because it was in a box with assorted odds and ends that she had saved over the years, including the most hideous Plaster of Paris mold ever made that I painted at summer camp when I was nine. Jeez, what a mother does for love, I guess.
Anyway, the yellowed report card made me laugh out loud and once again supported that adage that the more things change; the more they stay the same.
Let me explain. Back in the olden days when I was in elementary school, in addition to the various subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic, students also received a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory under a heading of Citizenship. Included under this odd section were items such as “Practices Self Control” and “Takes Care of Personal and School Property.” I noticed a big “U” with an asterisk beside it in the 3rd report period under this category and below the grading grid, the teacher had written by the asterisk, “messy desk.”
Yes, the dye was cast early on with that label. I’ve always worked better in a slightly less than organized environment. Quite frankly, I don’t trust a desk that’s overly neat. You know the type – like the one the person in the bank has where the only thing on top of the desk is a phone and a business card holder. They’re just too clinical.
I also received consistent “C’s” for writing – as in handwriting. My mother wrote back in one of the comment sections, “I do hope Addison will improve her writing.” Yeah, that didn’t work out so well, Mom.
Apparently I started out poorly and only got worse. These days I could forge the Unabomber’s signature with ease. I’m not proud of it and I’m not exactly sure when the deterioration began. I really don’t think about it until my wife looks at the grocery list I’ve written and says, “Do we really need eye of newt?” And then I look at the list indignantly and snap, “That says Cream of Wheat.”
Not to worry, the 5th grade apparently ended well with the final comment from Mrs. Reeves being, “It’s been a pleasure teaching Addison this year.” And, yes, I’m sure she wrote that note on the other 27 report cards that year.
And one of the sweet gifts of growing up in the small town of Harrisonburg, Virginia, Mrs. Reeves attended my mother’s memorial service about 35 years later. She came to the reception my family hosted after the service and as she walked towards me, I could feel my hands getting clammy. You know how you would always get nervous if you saw your teacher in the grocery store or anywhere out of context?
She took my hand and said, “Hello, Addison.” I took a deep breath and before I could speak she said, “That was a very well written eulogy that you gave.”
And that more than made up for that “U” she gave me.