Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Truth

Mr Hanlon.
My high school senior English teacher.
Hands down, the best English teacher on the planet.
He did not just teach us how to dot our i's and cross our t's and where to properly place our commas.
He inspired me to write.
He was one of the greats, and he in turn inspired greatness from me.
He shared with his class full of pimply teenagers his writing, his thoughts and his passions.
His writing down right touched me.
He was so eloquent and truthful with his words.
I can honestly say I don't remember the topics of his writing, but I do remember how I felt as he read them aloud to his class.
I felt like I wanted to be better.
I wanted to show him how great I could be.
Not because he demanded it, but because he saw a glimpse of that greatness in me and I believed him when he told me so, through his writings.
His class room was, let's say for sake of time, a little less than tidy.
If a student turned in a paper that he considered a great work he asked if he could keep a copy for his own personal use.
His lecture hall was filled with stacks upon stacks of papers from former students.
They were like veritable mountains, there must have been thousands of them.
Even those stacks of papers were inspiring.
I wanted so badly to write a paper that would be worthy of his stacks, to become a part of the legend and the greatness.
Then, it happened.
He handed back our latest essays and there were no red markings in the body of my paper.
I turned to the back page to see, scrawled in his infamous red ink, the words: Excellent, you're best work! May I please have a copy?
My heart nearly stopped, I had done it!
Here's where the story gets interesting.
The assignment for the essay was to go to a public place and watch someone.
Could be anywhere and anyone, or even a group of people.
Then we were to write about what we had observed in those people and places.
I never went anywhere after school.
I did not do his assignment as he told us to.
I have a million reasons why I never actually went and observed as he had asked.
My mom never left the couch, so asking her to take me somewhere, no matter the cause, seemed like a foreign thought to me.
I didn't even consider it.
I walked 3 miles home from school every day after eating little breakfast and no lunch because I was too proud to stand in the "free lunch" line.
By the time I got home I was tired, beyond tired.
I had just enough energy to make some sort of dinner and homework, then I fell into a comma of T.V. and sleep.
The thought of going somewhere extra was too much.
Instead I made up a pretend scenario in my mind.
I wrote about a fictitious trip to Toys "R" Us and seeing a little girl in the Barbie Doll isle.
I described the Pepto Bismol pink and the look of desire in the girls' eyes.
In my mind the girl was thin with stringy hair and worn and dirty clothes, obviously not very well off.
Her eyes were a little too large for her face and she held the doll for a really long time, staring at the beautiful creature inside the box.
My story ended with the girl's mother briskly coming for the girl and yanking her from the moment of bliss as, just for a moment, she held a little piece of childhood.
I described how the mother, with her tired, worn face, had not even noticed the child like look of longing in her daughter's eyes.
I wondered, in my paper, if the little girl had even ever had a Barbie, or any doll for that matter.
I don't remember how I ended the paper, but it must have been fabulous.
I do remember that the best thing I had ever written was a lie.
I wondered how that could be.
This week I realized why it was that the best thing I had ever written could have been this fake story I had made up.
I never did tell Mr. Hanlon that I cheated on his assignment.
The truth is, I may not have done the assignment just as Mr.Hanlon asked, but that story was true.
That story was about myself.
It has taken me 15 years to realize that.
There was never a moment in my childhood when I stood in Toys "R" Us staring at a Barbie Doll when my mother yanked me away.
But the feelings of that little girl were my feelings.
The description of wanting a childhood so badly, but not even being noticed, were my feelings.
Even the physical descriptions were spot on.
That is why, even 15 years later, my heart breaks just a little bit when I think of that poor, thin girl standing all alone in the Barbie Doll isle.


g said...

That is such a sad and touching experience. It's really no wonder you're such a wonderful mother. Reading your posts, it is clear you're giving your children the childhood you never had and then some. They're are blessed to have you! And I agree with your teacher, you're a great writer :)

WinterWrite said...

OMG. I love you so much. You are an awesome mother. I don't know how you turned out so great, but I'm glad you are my sister. Give that little girl inside a big hug from me.

Charlotte said...

This post was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm glad you found an inspiration. I'm touched by your little girl in the Barbie aisle, too.

Karen or Lee said...

Sara, you were a very self assured young woman. I am glad it took you a long time to see yourself in that gave you time to become much more assured and know who you are. Wish I had been more astute about the real situation!A great story, well written!

Just one tall girl named Laurel said...

Oh Sara, I'm so blessed to know you now that we're all grown up and to see how wonderful you are in this world, to your own family, to all you meet... Sharing your talents and sharing so much of you... You're an inspiration!

Karen said...

That's so heartbreaking and beautiful.

I firmly believe there is a big difference between fiction and a lie. And it seems to be that you have described the difference perfectly.