Saturday, May 17, 2008

School Rewards

In our house school rewards weren't given just for receiving straight A's. They were given when you also had perfect attendance. The reason behind this was one really nasty teacher I had in my Junior year of high school.

My journalism teacher, Donald Holmes, had suddenly died of cancer, shocking everyone. I was the editor in chief of the high school newspaper at that time, and he had taught me more about writing than anyone before or since. I'd also had him for English classes for two years, and he was co-sponsor of the Literary Club. He was also a great friend to me when my father had died earlier that school year, and the loss of this teacher was a great blow to me.

His replacement, probably knowing his inadequacy, resented everyone who had been close to Mr. Holmes. No matter how hard we worked, it was never good enough for him. I got a B that semester — the only one to spoil my high school average.

So in my family, you might come one grade short of straight A's and still get a reward, but if your attendance wasn't perfect, then I couldn't tell if you had done your best. You really can't do your best if you're not there every day.

The special rewards in our house were simple. You got to go somewhere, one on one, with Mom. Ben and I ended up driving to San Francisco together, a longer trip than usual, and staying in a very inexpensive but nice little hotel in China Town. Everything was squeaky clean, and we were there for the weekend. We were the only English speaking people in the whole place, but we really didn't care. We had a ball.

Ben is very tall. Even then, in high school, he was probably three or four inches beyond six feet. Chinese people tend to be short. As we walked around the area, we kept laughing about all the tourists with cameras who seemed to come in large flocks. They would often stop and assemble into formal poses, taking group photos around different landmarks. Every chance he would get, Ben would stride up to the back of an arranged group, stop and strike a pose, smiling for all he was worth, to be forever part of a foreign traveler's photograph. I laughed until my face hurt. We'd joke that people would look at the photos at home and accuse each other of whose boyfriend or illegitimate son he was.

Somewhere in China, even today, I imagine some Grandmother showing off her travel photos. "No, I don't who he is!" Probably twenty or more people had to go home and try to explain the tall young blond gentleman in their group to their families. Actually, I've sometimes had a hard time explaining him to my own.


Ben said...

What does that last sentence mean?

Kathleen said...

Ask your Grandma...

Now that I've used that funny remark, just let me say that I would have a hard time explaining any of my sons to anyone who didn't know them well. You are all such individuals, with strong personalities and quirky senses of humor. You've all got big hearts, and lots of birds on your antennas. You're all major blessings as well as a lot of fun.