Friday, October 10, 2014

Graded on Our Moms

When I was in sixth grade, I did well academically. Socially, horribly. I was such a pariah that the school teacher in charge of the school adaptation of Macbeth backed off from his initial plan of having me play Lady Macbeth because the boy given the part of Macbeth refused to act the role of my pretend spouse. (Weird, right? It's not like the Macbeths are renowned for their public displays of affection.) The teacher was limited in his choice of boys that could act well, so I lost out.

The school had me meet with a counselor to help me make friends, but I just didn't "get" social interactions. Twenty years later, I might have been given an Asperger's diagnosis. Back then, at least I could feel good about myself at school when it came to academic achievements. That is, until the (say the next two words in your best nonverbal voice of doom) "Pharoah Projects."

These ambitious projects lasted for several weeks. We were divided into small groups and told to prepare an exhibit about a specific pharaoh. I think my group's pharaoh was Ptolemy I. A woman--probably a volunteering mother--came to class one day and showed us how to stuff pantyhose with cotton to form the head and limbs of a dummy. Each group was to make a life-size pantyhose dummy of a pharoah, sew features onto its head and digits into its extremities, and dress it in appropriate clothing.

Such a sewing project was way beyond my abilities, but somehow I, of the three kids in the group, ended up with it as my lot. I still remember cringingly the night before the dummy was due, how I hunched next to my bedroom closet near midnight, trying not to wake my sister, as I tearfully did my best to work with needle, thread, and running nylons. It was so frustrating, and I felt pathetically alone (so much for "group work") and overwhelmed. Somehow, I managed to finish a pygmy, Greek-ish dummy, but we got an "F." My dummy was a sorry sight next to all the beautiful, life-size pharaoh dummies that could only have been made by parents.

The mother of another kid in my group took my pharaoh home and redid it, so we eventually got a C or D on the whole project. That low grade rankled for years. Why didn't someone tell us we were going to be graded on our mothers' crafting abilities and free time?

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