Panorama of San Bernardino

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Trading Places

Everyone used to say my twin sister and I looked exactly alike.  We didn't look exactly alike at least not to each other.  The doctor called us “mirror twins”.  We could fool people when we wanted to, even my mom.  It didn't always work. 

My kindergarten teacher was named Ms. Glenn.  She was a large woman with a tight bun and a sharp ruler that she wasn’t afraid to use.  I had seen her use it before, but I was always the good girl.  I sat in the front of the class waving my hand.  I wanted to please the tyrant. 

Jackie had Mrs. S as her teacher.  We called her Big Bird because she was six foot four with long blond hair.  Her students were always signing and finger painting.  Her class was like that episode of "Davey and Goliath" where the kids sat around the campfire singing Kumbayah. 

Mrs. S was a regular at my mom’s restaurant and ate there every Friday with her husband.  She always asked for my mom’s station.  Mrs. S adored Jackie and raved to my mom about how creative and sweet Jackie was.  “She called her sweet,” my mom would tell my dad with a puzzled expression.  Jackie seemed to be a different person under the protective shade of Mrs. S.
Our classes were right next door to each other.  It drove Jackie crazy that they separated us.  My mom said you should separate twins, that way they can create their own separate identities.  I never bought it.  What good was separate classes if you wore the same outfits and everyone called you the twins? 

The switch was Jackie’s idea even though she will say it wasn’t. 
The Sunday night before the switch we were in our room.  Out of nowhere Jackie said, “Lets switch classes tomorrow.  It’ll be fun”  I resisted for about five minutes, but finally gave in and told her, "Fine, but we better not get caught.  Let’s wear the same clothes that day.”  We both knew that wearing the same clothes wasn’t hard because all our clothes matched.
That Monday morning we walked to each other’s classes.  Mrs. S was busy tidying up the room when I walked in and glanced at me and said, “Good Morning Jackie.”  I smiled at her.  Even though it was a math day, I didn’t mind. 

Mrs. S was the opposite of Ms. Glenn, sweet where Ms. Glenn was sour, calm where Ms. Glenn was always pacing the room.  Every time Mrs. S said “Jackie” I looked up and responded with an answer.  I was doing fine and after lunch break I started to relax.  We were getting away with it.  
Right next door, Jackie struggled to write my name on the black construction paper cat she had made for the class Halloween party the following week.  We hadn’t thought of the handwriting issue.  Jackie was always getting her letters reversed.  My mom liked to say it was because Jackie was left handed.  Ms. Glenn immediately noticed the backwards N.  Jackie broke down quickly and confessed as if she was under the sharp glare of interrogation lights.  She blamed me. 
Ms. Glenn yanked Jackie over to Mrs. S’s class and told Mrs. S of the switch and led me back to class.  She told me to place my hands on top of the piano and took out her infamous ruler.  I still remember the crack of the wood on my skin.  I was no longer the good girl.  I still blame Jackie. 
When my mom picked us up that day, Jackie said, “Mom, you won’t believe what happened, Juanita and I switched classes.”
“You what?” my mom said getting red in the face.  Jackie knew she had to distract her and continued on, “Yeah mom, and guess what, Mrs. Glenn hit Jenny.”  
I held up my red fingers.  I knew what was coming.  
My mom stepped on the brakes and swerved to bring the car to a halt against the curb. 
“Let’s go,” my mom said.  My mom walked quickly back toward the school as she muttered under her breath.  I followed behind her.  She marched down to my kindergarten classroom while I pleaded with her not to embarrass me, “Mom, I’m fine, don’t say anything, please mom, please.”
My mom pulled open the door and as soon as she crossed the threshold of my classroom, my mom got right in Ms. Glenn’s face.   My mom spitted out her words.  “Don’t you ever touch my fucking child again or you’ll be fucking sorry.” 

Ms. Glenn backed up against the piano and stammered, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Mantz.  I’m sorry.  It won’t happen again.  I’m so sorry.” 

Ms. Glenn went from a towering giant to a shrinky dink in five seconds of meeting my mother.  When my mom was mad, she could make the devil wet himself. 

As we walked out of the room, I turned and shook my head at Ms. Glenn in an "I told you so" kind of way.  I looked into her watery shaky eyes and almost felt bad for her.
My mom told off the principal that day too.  Told him that she was the only one that could hit her kids.  Said she was going to sue the school.  She used the F word at least five times.  He apologized as he took notes.  The staff milled around his door through the textured glass.  
Ms. Glenn tiptoed around me for the rest of the year.  I may not have been the good girl anymore, but at least I was the bad girl with a bad ass mom. 

The universe does compensate.  Sometimes it sucked having a crazy mom and sometimes it wasn't so bad because she didn’t take anyone’s shit and scared the bullies away. 


1 comment:

  1. OMG. My grandma is EXACTLY like this! Sometimes it was embarrassing having her show up and start shit with my teachers, or worse, my CLASSMATES! But at the end of the day at least I always knew Granny had my back!!