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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Root Beer

I’ve never been a fan of root beer. I wasn’t aware it even existed until I was in Kindergarten. All the tables in my Kindergarten room had a nursery rhyme name. I sat at the “Jack & Jill” table, presumably because my name is Jackie. I say that because my older sister, Jill, also had the dubious honor of sitting at the table of her namesake. That has nothing to do with my root beer story ... I threw that one in for free!

Yes, my name is Jackie and my next oldest sibling is named Jill ... and kids seem to pick up on that pretty fast. I’m just glad my name wasn’t George (who kissed the girls and made them cry), or Peter (the pumpkin eater). And, in all reality, it could have been worse ... much worse. I could have been a boy ... and I was supposed to be a boy. By the time I was born, they had two boys and three girls. I guess they wanted to even things out, you know, Brady Bunch style ... except The Brady Bunch hadn’t been conceived yet. And, besides that, we weren’t born in the proper boy/girl/boy/girl Brady Bunch order, either. 

Anyway, they wanted a boy, so much so that they didn’t have a girls name picked out. They were going to name me John, but they were going to call me Jack. How’s THAT for cruel? (I thank God every day that I wasn’t born a boy!) So, when I popped out ... a girl ... and with no name other than John/Jack to choose from (apparently it had to be some derivation of them), I became Jacquelyn. This was at the height of the Kennedy fame. My mother couldn’t stand Jacqueline Kennedy (she never said why and I never asked), but she specifically spelled my name differently so that people didn’t think I was named after her. 

I guess Mama showed her, huh?!

I didn’t mind the Jack and Jill stuff, but my sister Jill STILL throws a temper tantrum if you so much as hum a few bars of that annoying little tune! Being the mischievous little sister that I am, I sometimes do ... just for the perverse pleasure of watching a grown woman throw a tantrum like a child! That has nothing to do with the root beer story, either!

Okay, back to root beer and Kindergarten. 

Mrs. Holtz was my teacher and I was scared to death of her. She wasn’t like the sweet, young, energetic teachers on those wholesome family sit-coms ... the ones who love their students so much that you can almost see little hearts floating out of them. Quite the contrary. Given the sheer volume of wrinkles on that decrepit old woman, I suspect that Mrs. Holtz had quite possibly come over on the Mayflower ... as an adult. And although there is no way to know with any certainly ... and keep in mind I’m making this assumption without the benefit of any scientific data ... but I think she might have actually been allergic to children! She certainly acted like it! I don’t think I ever saw her smile or display any emotion that even looked even remotely pleasurable. 

She had several helpers in the room with her, but I can’t recall any of their names. The asstants were always really nice, but I never paid much attention to them ... I was too busy keeping my eye out for Mrs. Holtz ... who was keeping her eye out for misbehaving children! I was terribly worried about being punished for doing something I wasn’t supposed to do even though I’d never been told I couldn’t do it. Back then, I guess, they must have just assumed we knew already the rules ... like whether or not we could go to the bathroom with our painting jacket on. Quite frankly, I had no idea what the rules were.

I was painfully shy, and learned the rules of acceptability by watching the other children to see what they got in trouble for. I’d seen one of the helpers give a kid permission to go to the bathroom with their painting jacket on, only to see that kid to get in trouble from Mrs. Holtz when they came out of the bathroom with their painting jacket on! Another time a kid got in trouble for taking her painting jacket off before going to the bathroom. 

Can we or can we NOT go to the bathroom with our painting jacket on?! 

I didn’t know! (I still don’t know!) 

It was a very confusing time for me. Mrs. Holtz could have cleared up the whole perplexing issue if I’d just had the courage to ask her ... but, sadly, I was never brave enough.

So anyway, I’m sitting at the Jack & Jill table, quiet as a church mouse, when the helpers come by with tiny little Dixie cups (like you have in the bathroom to rinse after brushing). One helper gave us a cup, and another came behind her and poured Double Cola from a bottle. At least, I thought it was Double Cola. It was dark brown and bubbley. 

”Yea! Coke!!” I thought happily. At home, us kids only got half a soda every Friday night after Mama came back from the grocery story. We got a whole coke when The Wizard of Oz or Cinderella came on tv ... but that only happened once a year. Soda for no reason was a treat! I had no idea what the special occasion was that merited the honor of having soda pop in the middle of the week, but I didn’t care!

I took a huge drink ... and quickly realized I’d make a collosal mistake! What in the world was this stuff, I wondered? My friend Rocky would know, but she was on the other side of the room at the Mary Had A Little Lamb table! 


There was NO way I could swallow it. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I had no idea what was in my mouth, but I knew one thing for certain ... it was not coke and it was most certainly not a treat! Unable to hold it in my mouth any longer, and getting queasy at the thought of swallowing it, I did the only thing I could do ... I spit it back into the cup.

And then the panic set in.

At home, if you didn’t want what was set in front of you, well then, you went hungry. But I didn’t know the rules at school!! Were you expected to eat or drink whatever they set before you? On tv they did, but this was real life ... were the rules the same? I didn’t know! My mind was racing. What was I going to do? If they came back around and saw that I hadn’t drunk it, I just knew I’d get in trouble! I had to get rid of the stuff ... but how? ... and where? I didn’t know if I was allowed to get up and go to the bathroom during snack time (that scenario had yet to present itself). And, even if that was allowed, would I get in trouble for taking my cup with me? 

Would somebody PLEASE tell me the rules?! 

That’s when it hit me. There was only one way to get rid of it. I knew what I had to do.

I poured it under the table.

Setting the now empty cup on the Jack & Jill table, I felt the enormous burden of my predicament being lifted off my tiny, fragile shoulders. There, I sighed with relief, it’s over now. I watched in disgust as my classmates downed their glasses of that whatever-it-was then lick their lips. Despite this nauseating display, I was smiling inside, and quite pleased with my ingenuity and problem-solving skills!

One of the helpers made her way to our table. Oh, no! Had she seen me? What would be my fate? She was smiling ... that was a good sign, right? She noticed my empty cup. ”Oh, you drank it all! Here’s some more,” she said, reaching for my cup. 

“No, thank you,” I said politely. "I don’t want anymore.”

”Oh, don’t be silly!" she said, filling my cup. "We’ve got plenty!” 

I wanted to cry! With my heart racing, and with no other options, I waited for her to leave and reached for the cup ... and with trembling hands, I dumped the second glass under the table.

I don’t know how many times she came by and filled my cup. I tried to tell her I didn’t want any, but she kept filling it up! ”You must really like this, huh?!” she said on more than one occasion.

My stomach was really beginning to hurt. When they realized what I had done ... and they would ... what would they do to me? I’d never gotten away with anything in my entire life. I was going to get in BIG trouble. It would probably go on my permanent record and haunt me for the rest of my life. Could I get into the college of my choice with this scarlet letter on my chest? Would this one foolish act lead to a lifetime of dead-end, menial, minimum wage jobs? My mind was reeling with the ramifications of what this one act of defiance would have on my entire life!

I sunk further and further into despair with every glass I poured out. I sat at the Jack & Jill table, mulling over my fate, and the bright future I had undoubtedly ruined. My spirit sunk to an all-time low. I was going to get yelled at in front of the entire class. But I was a good girl! I never got in trouble at school! I nearly passed out from the fear. I was literally beginning to lose consciousness when the bell rang, signaling for us to line up by the door.

I summoned all my strength, prayed my wobblely legs would hold my weight, and raced to join the line of children in an effort to get out of that room as quickly as possible. They would surely discover what I had done. There were only six kids at the Jack & Jill table ... and all the root beer was in front of one chair ... Jackie’s chair. I was sure to be caught. But, already excelling in procrastination despite my tender age, I knew I could worry about that tomorrow.

I slept fitfully that night, and came to school the next afternoon absolutely terrified, and fully prepared for whatever punishment would be meted out, and ... nothing. Not a word! No one said anything about it. As far as I could tell, my Jack & Jill table-mates were oblivious to the fact that there was a criminal in their midst. No one treated me any differently. No one looked at me with a disapproving frown or a head-shaking ”I’m very disappointed in you” look on their face.

Dare I dream? Could it be true? Was I really going to get away with it?

As the day wore on, the truth began to sink in ... they didn’t know! I wasn’t going to be punished! I wasn’t going to be ostracized from society! This wouldn’t be an albatross around my neck for the rest of my life!

My heart felt lighter and I felt years younger when I left school that day. I felt like the Grinch after the true meaning of Christmas came through ... when his heart didn’t feel quite so tight and he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light!

Hallelujah!! It was true! I had gotten away with it! 

That was, however, pretty much the first, and last, thing I’ve ever gotten away with. I’ve not only gotten caught for everything I ever did, I got caught ... and punished ... for everything my sister Jill ever did!! But, that’s fodder for another blog and it has nothing to do with my root beer story!

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