Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flag Poles and Clean Hands

I recall several things from second grade. My dad was the building principal and we had a pretty good basketball team. I remember looking down from the open hallway above the gym one day and watching my dad and one of the coaches tape the new hash mark lines onto the basketball court before a game. (I am the tall kid in the back row, the fifth boy from the right, standing directly under the G quarter note with an A in front of it and another G after it.)

When I saw my dad at school I had to call him Mr. Wiemers. That was his rule, but, at the same time, whenever he saw me in the hallway he would whistle real quick so I would turn around and wave at him.

Second grade was the winter I tried licking a flag pole during recess. I did it three or four times before I decided that this behavior made my tongue feel like I had burnt it on some very hot hot chocolate.

This was the year our teacher (see photo above) would check our hands every morning to see if they were clean. If our hands were acceptable and we had a handkerchief (or, a package of Kleenex) we were allowed to have a white paper hand made out of construction paper with our name on it placed on the wall. But, if our hands were not clean, or we had dirt under our fingernails, or we failed to have a handkerchief or Kleenex displayed on our desk then our white hand would come off the wall and be replaced by a black hand with our name on it. This quickly became an obsession for me. Each morning the teacher would walk up and down the rows as we laid our hands out on the desk top by our handkerchief. One by one black hands began to replace the white hands on the wall. Some kids would recover and be allowed to restore their white hand the next day. The longer the year went the more stressful this became for me because I had never had to remove my white hand from the wall. My mother always had an ironed handkerchief for me to take to school, but just in case I would ever forget I also had secured a small package of Kleenex and kept them in my desk.

One day I did forget a handkerchief, but I simply called an audible and went with the back up plan. I moved the unopened pack of Kleenex to my desk top and passed inspection again. With this kind of focus and planning I was able to go the entire year without once ever having to remove my white hand. Now, there were days my tongue was very sore, but my hands were clean.

In second grade I realized that if I am going to bother pusuing a goal I should probably invest some time and effort into back up plans to attain the goal. I also decided to only lick flag poles in the summer.

Mr. Wiemers

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