Max called. With questions.
I leaned in a little. He is sometimes hard to understand over the phone. “KK, what was the name of your second grade teacher?”
This test wasn’t going to be easy! But I knew this one as my mind raced backwards 67 years, “Miss Dorothy Booth.”
We paused as he wrote down my answer.
“What was your favorite thing to study in the second grade?”
That was a no-brainer, “Lunch and recess.”
“What books did you read?”
“I don’t remember the name of the book. But it was about Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot. They played on a swing set a lot. And they sometimes stepped in mud puddles.”
“What did you do for fun?”
This time the pause was on me. Max had called as a requisite for his first assignment in the second grade. I can’t tell my grandson flat out that I didn’t think school was all that much fun when I was his age. His mother and my first wife would have my head in a sling.
“Max, do you mean at school or just in general?”
“I pulled Suzie Cozart’s hair. And sometimes if we finished our reading assignment early, Miss Dorothy would let us do some clay modeling at the table in the back. And I really liked it when it was my turn to dust the erasers.”
We had a break in the test as Jessica explained to him the ins and outs of clay modeling and dusting erasers. I spent the free time thinking about the gap we were trying to bridge here. It went way past a simple modern-day exercise for returning second graders.
It was like different worlds. Eons apart. We could not have conceived in 1954 of wearing a mask to school. Unless, of course, it was The Lone Ranger day. And Max, in his wildest imagination, could never picture us hunkered beneath our desk with our head stuck between our legs carrying out an atomic bomb drill.
I wondered if they still had the alphabet hung on the walls above the blackboards. Max sure didn’t seem to recognize Dick or Jane.
“What did you eat for lunch in the cafeteria?”
That question went directly to my point. “Max, we didn’t have a lunchroom in the second grade. Everyone carried their meal to school.” I didn’t feel led to entangle his little mind with Hopalong Cassidy Lunchboxes, thermos bottles with screw on tops or those appropriate-sized brown paper sacks that we had to carefully fold up and take back home each day. “Most of the time Mother would mash peanut butter and bananas together into a gooey glob and smear it between two slices of Wonder Bread.”
“You didn’t have pizza on Wednesdays, KK?”
The gap may be even wider than I thought!
He read the next question on his list, “What was your favorite TV show?”
“Max, we didn’t have a TV. I didn’t know about any of the shows.”
I could hear him rolling that little tidbit around in his wonderful young and ever-expanding mind from 400 miles away. He couldn’t grasp such a concept.
It took a minute but he moved on. “Who was your best friend in the second grade?”
I didn’t hear the next question. I was thinking about the pillow fights when Bobby spent the night with me. We’d leap off the top bunk and torpedo my little brother on the single bed across the room. We’d whisper late into the night long after Mom had turned off the light and told us to go to sleep.
We fought those elementary school wars side by side.
Maybe Max and I had found some common ground here. We didn’t think about social interaction in Miss Dorothy’s classroom. We were so young and innocent and wide-eyed about life; and not so sure of all that was taking place around us. We made friends because we found ourselves sometimes sinking in the same boat.
What’s that old saying, a friend in need…
Bobby Brewer had emailed me from Oregon just a few hours before this test began. College, years, miles and life had separated us… but they couldn’t keep us apart.
School is so important. And I pray Max learns, grows, enjoys and makes the most of his second-grade year. But if he could find his Bobby Brewer in that classroom… PRICELESS!
“KK, KK… are you still there?”
“Yes Max, I’m sorry, what was the question again?”
“What kind of computer did you have in the second grade”…
Max and KK