The Women at the Tea Shoppe

I don’t remember the ladies names. So I will give them names so as not to have to say “the lady in the brown coat” or “her cousin.” I do remember that these two ladies were cousins. I will call my two new friends Sarah and Emily. They were very close not only in age, but also in stature.

As I mentioned in my previous chapter, it became apparent quickly that Sarah and Emily were quite excited to have an American sitting at the table they decided to sit down at to have their tea and scones. I realized quickly these two women had a story to share. Just as we all have a story, these women’s story far outweighed many stories I had heard or could have imagined. I will attempt to recreate their conversation they had with each other, with me sitting at that round table in the tea shoppe in Hungerford, England.

“I remember the train that day more than anything, don’t you Emily?” “Yes,” Emily said, looking down at her tea, as she started to rub her index finger slowly on the side of the tea cup. “Yes, just seeing the train was exciting but knowing that I was going to be taking my first train ride was so frightening at the same time, wasn’t it Emily?” “Yes and you were only 6 and I was 5. But we grew up so much that day, dear Sarah, so much.”

I still hadn’t caught on. I didn’t know if Sarah and Emily were talking to each other, talking to me or what. They just started talking like it was in the middle of a conversation they had been having. I didn’t know why they started talking at all but they obviously wanted me to hear the story they were about to tell me. I put down my newspaper, The Observer, and listened politely, as I didn’t want Sarah and Emily to think I was some impolite American.

“1939 or 40 was the year I believe. Mum and Dad and brother and I lived in London and I remember it was great fun until the war started. Then the war started and things so changed for us! Even though I didn’t know it at the time, many families had been ordered to send their children out of London to escape!” Sarah said. (It was at this point my ears perked up quite a bit. War? Escape? What is going on here?) “It was frightful the day we had to go to the train station. All Mum told me was that we were being evacuated so we wouldn’t get hurt by the bombs!” “I was so young I couldn’t even imagine what that meant but I knew it was scary and I knew I didn’t want to die.” Wow, I thought to myself. Wow.

Emily looked at Sarah and smiled briefly. “It’s okay Sarah, you don’t have to talk about this, why are you talking about this?” Sarah looked at me and then Emily and then back to me and said “I really don’t know why “, as she smiled at me with a sad smile. I stared at Sarah wondering what she was going to say next.

“It was a most difficult day, the day my parents had to put my brother and me on the train. Not even knowing where we were going. There was so many of us children that had to be put on trains. Parents were crying, children were crying, I was crying, my brother was crying.” Emily said, “I was crying too. It was horrible!” Both Sarah and Emily were talking to me, straight at me as if they were begging me to listen. Not to worry, I was, I definitely was listening.

Sarah and Emily proceeded to tell me a little history behind the reasoning of evacuating children from many of the larger cities in England during World War II. The British government knew that it was only a matter of time that Germany was going to try to invade England by bombing the larger cities, especially London. So, in order to save the children the government told families to evacuate at least the children to safer spots in England that the Germans were not likely to bomb, smaller towns to be specific. It was not a required evacuation, but the government highly suggested this and provided the means and organization to get the children out of the larger cities.

My eyes were getting bigger and bigger as I was imagining this. I was starting to remember that I had read a little about this either in school or in some magazine. But it was just a story that was only faintly in my memory. And now here I was listening to these two women, Sarah and Emily, share their memories of this amazing time in history.

Emily said, “I remember thinking about you Sarah. I was so afraid I was never going to see you again. Our families were both on the same platform waiting for the train to come in. We got on the train and you were in the next train car. We had no idea where we were going.” Emily said, “And Mum and Dad were so upset that they had to let us get on that train without them. Of course at the time I had no idea what they were going through. I only was seeing it from my point of view.”

Sarah and Emily proceeded to tell me how they both ended up in a town south of Newbury where the train had dropped them off (which actually was only a few kilometers away from Hungerford, where we were drinking our tea). They had been living of course in the much larger city of London so going to a small town was quite a shock for them apparently. Emily, “I didn’t like it in at all at first. The worst by far was being away from Mum. I missed her so much and was so afraid the bombs would kill Mum and Dad and I would never see them again.”

By this point I was so honored to be in the company of these two women. I didn’t know what to say or do. For both of them to have gone through something like that at such a young age, paled in comparison to anything that I had been through my whole life, let alone by the time I was 6! Sarah and Emily began to talk a bit more about the town they ended up in but in a few short minutes they moved on to another topic. I do not for the life of me remember the rest of what they said as my mind swirled and swirled in awe in what I had just learned about these two fantastic women.

I will never forget my brief time with Sarah and Emily and I am so happy that I stopped by to have a cup of tea at my favorite tea shoppe in Hungerford, England that day.

Hungerford

Hungerford

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My Most Amazing Tea Day in Hungerford, England

With such a fortunate life of living in several different places, living in England was by far and away the most exciting.  I had the opportunity to live in England three different times most recently as an adult, in the late 90’s.  I took my two young children with me so they too, could have a taste of England and live in a place that was far far different than the state of Texas, where they were born and raised.

We moved to a very small hamlet that literally had maybe 5 or 6 homes, in the little village of South Fawley that was in the southern most part of Oxfordshire.  We lived in a Manor house that was oh, maybe built in 1067 or something like that!  It was incredible.  How fortunate we were to be able to do this.  So many things happened there I cannot even begin to tell you the oh so many stories.  I will someday, but there is one day that stands about amongst many, that I must write about now.

It all started with the magic elixir….tea which is the hot drink of choice for probably close to 100% of English people.  I became obsessed with it during my second “tour” in England when I was a teenager.  After that I was addicted and drank it growing up and continued to do so.  A cuppa hot tea is even better when I can sit down in a tea shop in England and have someone make it for me!  Mainly because of the crumpets, digestives and other sweet things that one usually has with hot tea.

Hungerford Tea Room

My favorite Tea Room in Hungerford, England

When I was living at the manor house in South Fawley, I kept busy during the day when my children were out at school.  I didn’t work so I filled my days with special events and outings.  It was great fun.  One of the many things I liked to do was go out and have hot tea at one of my favorite tea shoppes.  These places were in small towns such as Wantage, Abingdon, Hungerford, Newbury, Great Shefford, Farringdon and sometimes even in big towns such as Oxford and London.

One day in particular stands out like no other, when it comes to my hot tea experience. That day I went to my favorite tea place in Hungerford.  Hungerford was maybe 15 miles away from South Fawley and it was only a hop skip and a jump for me really.  The weather was quite unsettled as it was cold and chilly so it was a great day for a cup of hot tea with scones and digestives.  I couldn’t wait.  My tea shop was on the main street in Hungerford which was called, High Street.  (As many main streets are called in many towns actually). As I walked in the tea shop I noticed that many other people had had the same idea I had. It was cold and chilly outside so why not have a cup of tea!  There were hardly any tables but I was lucky enough to get one of the last tables available.

As I began to drink my tea and read my newspaper, The Observer, I noticed that a few more people had come into the tea shop.  I didn’t think too much about it really so I just kept on reading and drinking.  For some reason I couldn’t relax.  I looked up and saw two older ladies that were probably in their 60’s talking to each other looking for a place to sit. They were awfully close to the round table I had claimed…which actually had 2 other chairs around it.  I looked at the chairs thinking, “I hope they don’t sit here and interrupt my tea and solitude.”  Well…I couldn’t think that fast enough because the next thing I knew one of the ladies said to me in her very thick British accent, “Pardon me young lady, but does it matter that we sit at this table with you?  There is nothing else to be found!”

I mean, what could I say, “NO?”  Of course I wanted to say that but of course I could not say that because of course my mother taught me better than that so of course I said, “Of course!”  As I gestured my hand to the two empty chairs at my table, both ladies sat down and smiled and waited for the waitress.  I must say at this point I knew that my relaxing time in tea shop had gone downhill and I was a bit upset to not have my solitude.  But I really had no choice and had to make the best of it.  The two ladies began to talk a bit between themselves and I quickly got back to business of reading my newspaper and drinking my tea.

When the waitress came to the table and asked them what they would like, the waitress also asked me if I would like anything else.  I told her “Not now, thank you anyway.”  That’s all I said and the 2 ladies perked up a bit and said in unison “You’re American!”  I smiled and said “Yes…you can tell already?”  One of them said why yes, “Your accent gave you away!”  Silly me.  The other lady said, “I’ve always liked Americans!”  I was thinking to myself, thank goodness.  So I said out loud, “That’s a good thing; I guess I’m safe then!” They both chuckled and looked at each other in a way that was much like a “knowing” look. This is hard to explain but the knowing look between them was almost like a comforting look.  I couldn’t even come close to guessing what it was, because after about half an hour I found out what it was.

What happened in the next half hour pretty much blew me away.  Here I thought I was going to have a quiet cup of tea at my tea shoppe, but instead I had one of the best history lessons about World War II I could have imagined and I know I never learned in school what they were about to share with me.

I so wish I could have taped the whole conversation.  It was truly incredible and by the time I walked out of that tea shoppe, I was so thankful that these two women had not only asked to sit at the two chairs at my table, but I was so thankful that these two women shared their common bond and experiences of World War II with me.  The fact that my being American and my American accent triggered this was fortuitous for all 3 of us.  I became friends with these 2 women who I was never to see again after this day but who, at the same time, left much more of an indelible mark on my brain that most people I have known for years and years!

NEXT TIME:

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The Bottom Falls Out

The bottom fell out from beneath my siblings and I, during our second stay at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, when I was in high school.  My Mom and Dad separated and Mom moved out of the house that we lived in on the Air Force Academy a couple of years after moving back.  It truly was a very difficult time for all of us.  But I do know that when a parent moves out of the house things are NOT the same for anybody in that family ever again.  We were no exception.  Talk about an adjustment.  It was not a good time.  But to tell you the truth, I knew it was coming and I think it had to happen.  I was at that age where I understood my parent’s relationship was not that great anymore and I knew for a while it was coming to an end.  The separation and ultimate divorce was tough.  Our life as a family was gone and none of us were the same.   It was heartbreaking at the time.

When my mother left, my twin sister Cathy decided to live with her, in downtown Colorado Springs.  Me, my older sister Bonnie and my younger brother Matthew stayed at the house with my Dad.  Bonnie had just graduated from High School and was going to soon move to go to college so it was just me, Matthew and my Dad living in the big white house near the south entrance of the Air Force Academy.

Matthew and I became very close and we pretty much became the cooks of the house, the cleaners of the house and did just about anything my Dad needed us to do.  He was always so busy working that Matthew and I also did what we wanted to do and cooked what we wanted to and watched the shows on TV that we wanted to.  (I remember that the Walton’s TV show was one of our favorites)!

FAST FORWARD about 11 or 12 years to the year 1985.  This was a MAJOR year in mine and Matthews’ life.  Matthew gets married early in the year and he becomes a father later in that year.  I become a mother at the end of the year.  Of course a lot had happened between 1975  and 1985.  I went to college in West Texas, moved to Austin after graduating and met my future husband and married a few years later.  Matthew obviously finished high school, went to college and met his future wife and married.

When I was a young mother my children and my husband at the time, made it up to Colorado about once a year, from our home base of Austin, Texas.  It helped that my husband’s family lived in Colorado too.  As a result, when my children were young and Matthews children were young (he had two girls), our families remained close.  My twin sister had 2 sons by then, so there were 6 cousins that had a blast with each other and they all got along pretty well too.

Yet, it was during this time and shortly after that it was becoming a bit obvious that Matthew and his families’ connection to us, his birth family, was slowly deteriorating.  I do think Matthew stayed pretty close with Dad though.  But the relationship with the women in the family was cracking.  Matthew was obviously not only a Dad now, but also a husband.  It was important to him that his family takes a firsthand seat.  And that was fine and totally understandable.

I can have my guesses as to why the relationship with my brother deteriorated.  I do not want to speculate on any other relationship Matthew has with others in our family.  I can only write what I know in this case and I can only write what I perceive and believe of our relationship.  It may be right, it may be wrong but it is what I perceive and know.

Bottom line, this day and many years now…my relationship with my brother is on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being great and 0 being horrible….I would say it is at a 1.  I mean, I don’t even know Matthew any more.  He doesn’t know me anymore.  We both have not put any effort into making our relationship better or good for that matter.  Call it “life”.  Call it “lazy”.  Call it “I’ll do it later”.  Call it “why”.  I know my next door neighbor better than I do my brother.  It’s shameful.

I used to listen to a great radio show in Austin for close to 18 years.  It was called the JB & Sandy Morning Show.  I became an avid listener to the point where I pretty much became friends with JB & Sandy even though I had only met them once at some fund-raiser.  It is really interesting listening to a radio show for that long because you get to know these guys like they are your best friend…or even your brother.  I mean I know so much about those guys JB & Sandy, that if you gave me a test about them and a test about my brother I would pass the test about JB & Sandy with flying colors.  The test about Matthew I would fail miserably.  And he would fail a test about me too.

It is such a great regret of mine.  The older I get the more regret I have.  From what I understand, Matthew is a great father.  But how would I really know for sure?  From what I understand, Matthew is great at his sales job.  But how would I really know for sure?  From what I understand, Matthew is a great soccer coach.  But how would I really know for sure?  From what I understand, Matthew is a very Christian man.  But how would I really know for sure?

I don’t know Matthews favorite TV show.  I don’t know Matthews favorite things to eat.  I don’t know the company that Matthew works at.  I don’t know if Matthew likes sports but if he does, what are his favorite teams?  Would he enjoy watching football with me?  I don’t know if Matthew is a good husband – I mean I’m sure he is – but how would I really know? I don’t know if Matthew enjoys life.  I don’t know if Matthew is a happy person.  I don’t know if Matthew has any health problems.  I just don’t know a thing about him.  And you know what, it’s my own damn fault that I don’t know these things.  Now, it’s been so long that it would seem like an almost strange thing to try to reboot the relationship.

Some would say “This happens all the time in families!”  Well yeah, so.  Is that supposed to make me feel better?  And truthfully I don’t know why I’m even writing this right now, as I don’t know where it is going.  I just know that if I have to write this – and if no one reads this blog, that’s fine.  I know my Mom and sisters read my blog and will read this, but Matthew probably won’t read it because I don’t think he knows I even like and enjoy writing, let alone have a blog.  Shall I go ahead?

If Matthew and I valued our relationship … we’d have a better relationship and even know what was going on in each other’s life.  I mean, the last time I saw Matthew was at his youngest daughter’s wedding in 2011.  And that had been the first time I had seen him in YEARS.  It was obvious that Matthew would do anything for his children.  And that was a great thing to see.  It was SO good to see Matthew.  I LOVE him so.

The last time Matthew contacted me was about a year 1/2 ago when he was very upset with me about me butting my nose into something I should not have butt my nose into, regarding his family.  I thought I was being thoughtful, but I was not, as Matthew let me know in an email.  At first I was shocked to get an email from him!  But, it was quickly obvious it was not to say hi.  It was to say: stay out of things.  He was protecting his family, I understand that.  I blew it.  If there was any chance of reconnecting with Matthew, I lost it that day that.

This writing isn’t coming together.  But then again, why should it?  My relationship with Matthew isn’t together and hasn’t been together for a long time.

 

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“You have a brother?”

When I posted on Facebook I was going to write about my brother and it was no holds barred….I got an interesting response.  One of my friends said: “I didn’t even know you had a brother!  I thought there were just 3 girls in the family!”  Yeah, that’s the problem. There aren’t just 3 siblings, there are 4 of us.  It’s not a problem that there are 4 of us, it’s a problem that many of my friends think there are only 3 of us.

You know if one figures out how many relationships are in a family of 6…there are 25-5, not counting duplicates. (Okay, its Math…I often don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to Math – but stay with me on this please.)  I have 5 different relationships within the family I was born.  And there were 6 of us.  Of course my relationship with each of my parents is very different.  My relationship with each of my siblings is very different.  And the relationship with my brother, Matthew, was no exception.

Let me tell you a bit about Matthews and my relationship before I really get into anything, so you can better visualize and understand personalities. Matthew was the youngest. The youngest of all the siblings. He was born 3 years after my twin sister and I and of course he was a BOY.  Thank goodness.  I’m sure my parents were VERY happy to finally have a boy.  I even remember the day!  We were living on the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when Matthew was born.  The hospital on the Air Force Academy had recently opened and Matthew was one of the first boys that was delivered at the hospital there.  He for sure was the first heaviest boy delivered there, according to my mother.  And you know, she would know.

My mother’s mother, Granny Latham, had come up from Monahans, Texas to stay with us while Mom had the baby and was in the hospital.  Back then you know, when someone had a baby they stayed in the hospital for a while.  Imagine that.  I remember going up to the hospital with Granny Latham to visit Mom but I couldn’t go in the room so I waited for Granny in the lobby waiting area while she was visiting her daughter.  Granny walked out so happy.  It was a snapshot in my mind when she walked out of the maternity ward.

That’s enough of the birth. Truthfully the things I remember about my brother as a young child were not any different from others I suppose.  So, as it normally is, my main memories of Matthew as a young boy were vivid only if a major event happened to him.  OR a major event that happened with me and him together.  If you are one of the ones that has been reading my blog for quite some time you may remember my blog “The Day I Tried to Kill My Brother“, it was a real and true day by the way and if you read the blog, the scar my brother has to this day is because of yours truly.  I never tried to kill anyone else after that day, even my twin sister, so it really was a pretty profound day in my life, let alone Matthews.

I also remember a MAJOR thing about Matthew that just really irked me every Christmas.  Every Christmas for several years until my parents got a hold of the situation; we would wake up on Christmas morning and find every single present under the tree, UNWRAPPED.  I was horrified and we knew who it was.  It was MATTHEW, because it certainly wasn’t Santa Claus. Santa Claus would never ruin a child’s Christmas like that.  I really don’t know what Mom and Dad did to stop the practice but thank goodness they did do something because Christmas was ruined for me for at least 3 years or so.

After we left the Air Force Academy and moved to Ohio and then England, I do have to say my relationship with Matthew was pretty normal for siblings.  We actually were pretty close and we were always civil to each other.  Matthew and I had the same temperament as each other and were more introverted than Bonnie and Cathy I think.  Matthew and I played together more and it was just a good relationship.  I was more of a tom boy and that helped our relationship too.

On Thames River - Matthew and Mom

Matthew and Mom, on the River Thames Early 70′s

After our 4 year stay in England, when I was just out of the 9th grade and Matthew must have been just out of the 6th grade, my Dad got stationed at the Air Force Academy again in Colorado so we were back in familiar territory.  Unfortunately, when we moved back our family and all of our relationship dynamics really started changing.  Of course all of us siblings were getting older and were slowly moving away from each other as far as our relationships because you know, friends…friends were it as it is to most young people our age.

NEXT WEEK: THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT FROM BENEATH US

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FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS – JUST A FEW

In the 1st and 2nd grade, my relationship with my twin sister, Cathy, was the one I remember the most.  I mean of course it would be, with us being twins.  We were compared often but not to the extent it would have been if we were identical.  That probably was a saving grace.  But, apart from not being in the same classes at school, we were together often mainly because of our activities and we also shared the same bedroom until we were about 10 or so.  I was Miss Introvert and Cathy was Miss Extrovert – at least that’s what I remember, Cathy may remember the opposite.  I kind of put myself into that box and it also felt comfortable at the time.  But, as siblings do, we fought allot.   I don’t remember “wining” very much because allot of the fights were physical and while I think I could have won a lot of them I gave in too quickly.

Cathy and I were good Brownies.

Cathy and I were good Brownies.

The fact that Cathy and I were twins turned out to be interesting not just for us, but for our teachers and our friends and probably others.  I remember that Mom put us in ballet class during our young elementary years. For our annual ballet recital that we had for our families, Cathy and I were put in front of the other girls because we were the twins.  I truthfully felt very uncomfortable about this.  I always thought Cathy was better than I was too and felt like they were just being nice to me because I was her twin.  Ah the life of twins.

My relationship with my Mom was good from what I could remember as a young child.  She was really busy being a mom to all of us and I just thought she was great, but always busy!  My mother was beautiful and I remember people telling my mother that she looked like “Jackie”.  I had no idea who this “Jackie” person was.  I was starting to realize that Jackie was one of the most famous women in America because she was the wife of the President of the United States.  Whoever he was.  But actually, my Mom did look like Jackie Kennedy.  They were both beautiful.  I saw pictures sometime of Jackie Kennedy on magazines and would look at my Mom and think they looked like sisters.

Classy Mom

Classy Mom

My Dad on the other hand was an enigma to me.  Of course, I never used that word when I was a little girl because I never knew it existed but looking back that’s what he was.  He would leave in the morning, Monday through Friday, and come back around 5 or 6.  I couldn’t WAIT until he got back.  He was always so happy to see us.  He would walk in with his blue Air Force uniform on and take off his jacket and smile his big big smile.   When he gave me a big hug he would always say “How is my Carolina in the Moon?”  I never really got why he would address me that way because I was never at or in the moon but I didn’t care, it always felt much like a term of endearment to me…kind of like saying, “Caroline, I love you!”

Another thing I loved about my Dad was his stubbly facial hair he would let grow out on the weekends.  I would love to rub my hand against it, or if I was sitting in my Dad’s lap or next to him I would ask him if I could rub my cheek on his cheek so I could feel his stubbly beard.  I know it sounds weird but to this day it is a great memory.  I remember when I hugged him often when he was an older man and if he hadn’t shaved that day I would put the palms of my hands against his face and feel the stubble.  He would smile and I would smile and that would always mean “I love you Dad.”  Nothing had to be said.

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Daddy goes to Vietnam – I go to Big Springs

Growing up with Dad in the military was just a natural thing for me and my siblings.  Even if Dad wasn’t stationed at the same place we lived.  That happened twice in my Dad’s career in the Air Force.  Once when I was young and the other time was when I had already grown up and moved to another town on my own, to go to college.  Right after I completed the 2nd grade in Colorado Springs, my Dad was sent overseas to be in the Vietnam War.  I was still too young to really understand the gravity of the year-long “sentence” for my Dad.  All I knew was my Dad wasn’t going to be with us for a year and we all had to go move somewhere, besides the Air Force Academy, while he was gone.  My parents decided that the family would go live in West Texas, where both of my parents grew up.  It was familiar territory and now, looking back…it would make it easier on my mother. 

Big Springs, Texas it was.  This was where my Dad grew up and it also had an Air Force Base (Webb) where we could take advantage of military prices and military health options and many other military benefits!  So, for the 3rd grade only, I went to school at Kentwood Elementary in Big Springs.  Living on Cindy Lane was pretty uneventful and 3rd grade was pretty uneventful too, apart from some guy in my class named Noel who had a crush on me and I thought he was just well…ugly…so I didn’t like him.  I look back now and think what a horrible person I must have been just to not like someone because they were ugly.

But it was nice to live in the same town as my Mamaw and Papaw Reaves.  I really got to know them much better and began appreciating what they had to offer me in my life.  Although this was the time Papaw was just hanging on with his life that had been full of smoking which had ruined his lungs.  But he was still alive and even though I was young, I knew it was near the end.  I learned allot from my Mamaw during this time too and began to really appreciate her fantastic cooking.  I will always remember the great games we played in the living room at Mamaw and Papaws’ house and the fantastic air conditioner that was in the living room where I would stand in front of and let it blow my hair forward while cooling me down after playing in the hot West Texas heat.

My Dad wrote on the back on this photo :  Christmas, 1965  Pleiku, Vietnam

My Dad wrote on the back on this photo : Christmas, 1965 Pleiku, Vietnam

When I was in the 3rd grade I also starting reading and writing fairly good, for a 3rd grader anyway.  I would write my Daddy letters and put them in an envelope and put that 5 cent stamp on the envelope and send them to him at the base where he lived in Pleiku, Vietnam.  Those were the first letters I wrote.  But the best part was receiving letters from Daddy.  My Dad had 4 kids and 1 wife and he would write letters individually to us throughout the year he was gone.  Getting a letter from him was so exciting.  He would personalize them and remember everything from other letters I had written to him.  I so wish I had realized the importance of those letters, because I must have just thrown them away after a while and today I wish I had every single one of them.  Love you Daddy!

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Me the Cheat – But Only Once

For some reason the events that happened to me in Ohio were all very significant to me and my life.  I have told you about two of them:  the handwriting incident with Ms. Bailey, the cigarette incident in the phone booth and now for the third incident.  Another incident that changed my life.   Ahh, the life of me. 

Even though my family and I lived in Ohio for only 2 years (when I was in the 4th  and 5th grade   ) we lived the first year on Wright Patterson AFB and then the 2nd year in a house off the base in Fairborn, Ohio.  I don’t know the reasoning behind the move.   The house at Fairborn was pretty nice.  Also what was pretty nice was the 5th grade teacher I had at my new school, Ms. Rue.  I really liked her and she was for sure much nicer than my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Bailey!  Ms. Rue treated a lot of her students, including me, nicely but with fair amount of appropriate sternness.

5th grade was a step of major growth for me in many ways.  The school I was in was fantastic and the 5th grade class was full of people who I liked.  But 5th grade was hard for me…the hard part being MATH.  I DID NOT LIKE MATH.   I didn’t think that way and I much preferred reading and geography and writing.  BUT NOT MATH OR even SCIENCE.   I had no faith in myself was really what it boiled down to.  I never had done well in Math in my younger grades and I knew it wasn’t going to change in 5th grade either.  My twin sister, Cathy, got the Math skills…not me.

I remember the several weeks we studied fractions.  UGGHH.  Fractions.  Ms. Rue spent a lot of time with us on fractions.  So many fractions on the chalk board (yes, it was chalk back then) I would dread Math time.  And it was always right after lunch when I wanted to take a nap.  So that didn’t help any.

I only got the basic fraction stuff, not the complicated fractions and subtracting them and all of that.  It was horrible.  The good thing was there were several people who sat around me that seemed to be getting the fraction thing.  Not all of them but some of them.  Especially this girl named Cindy.  She was SMART in Math and probably other things but Math was definitely her thing.  And Ms. Rue knew it and we all knew it.  Any time Ms. Rue was doing the Math lesson Cindy was one of the people who would raise her hand often if she knew the answer…and she always did seem to know the answer.  My mind just wasn’t made for fractions that was for sure but Cindy’s was.

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After a few weeks of fraction mania, it was time for our first BIG TEST on fractions.  I studied hard for it the night before.   I really did.  I really wanted to get some of the test right at least.  And Ms. Rue had told us that it was going to count for a fairly big portion of our Math grade.  I was already at C-, straddling D+ level in Math.  I had to get that grade up.

The day of the test was intense for me.  My seat was on the far left of the class in about the 5th row and there were only 6 rows.  One person behind me.  One person to the right of me.  One person in front of me and the window to my left.  If you can imagine.  Back then we did not have tables that 4 or 5 people sat at.  It was one desk per person.  We were actually packed in pretty good in that classroom.

We started our test, which was timed.  I don’t remember how much time we had but I remember thinking it wasn’t enough time for me to finish.  There were 30 math questions.   Or should I say fraction questions.  I panicked when I saw them all.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I took a deep breath and started and just went for it.  I don’t know how long it took me but before you know it I was done.  I looked up and took a deep breath again, thinking I would be one of the last people to complete the test.  But no, I wasn’t.  Everybody was still working on the test, including Cindy who was the person sitting right in front of me.  I was alarmed.  I must have done something wrong.  I was never the first person to finish.

So I started looking at my test again.  What did I do wrong?  Ummm….looks okay to me but it can’t be.  All the smart ones in the class were still working on theirs!  I looked over Cindy’s shoulder since she was in front of me and she soon looked like she was just about done as she was looking over her answers.  I could see her paper fairly clearly.  She was pretty close to me.  The biggest thing I noticed was that she had the same answers as me but with a negative sign next to almost all of them!  WHAT?  GOSH, I immediately thought that I was just so stupid.  Of course the answer was a negative fraction and not a positive.

I didn’t see her whole paper but what I did see was at least the top paper and realized I better put a negative sign next to my fractions, especially if Cindy put a negative sign next to her fractions!  I realized also that this must be a trick that Ms. Rue pulled on us.  Most of the answers would be negative fractions and not positive.  So, even though it looked as though Cindy and I had the same numbers as the result, Cindy had the negative sign next to the answers so I decided to put a negative sign next to my numbers.  I was so very careful as Ms. Rue would occasionally walk up and down the aisles so I made sure she was nowhere near me when I looked at Cindy’s paper.

I then felt much better and proceeded to take my test up front, as we were instructed to do, and put them face down on the corner of the teachers’ desk.  I couldn’t have felt more positive about a math test in ages.  With Cindy’s “help” I knew my grade would go up in Math!

About 2 or 3 days later Ms. Rue indicated that it was time to hand back the Fraction Math test we had taken a few days earlier.  I was so excited.  I bet Ms. Rue was proud of me!  I couldn’t wait to get the test back.  But before Ms. Rue began handing back the test she turned VERY serious and looked at all of us and said, “No one got an A on this test…not a one of you.”   She seemed very disappointed and I began to be perplexed.

Then Ms. Rue said: “There would have been at least one A in the class if this person had not looked at another person’s paper though.   I am not going to tell any of you who it is, but the person that it is knows that I am talking about them.”   Many eyes got very big and started looking around.  But I am sure that not only did my eyes get very big but my cheeks I am sure got VERY red.  I was absolutely horrified.  Even though no one knew it was me, I knew it was me and Ms. Rue knew that I had cheated.

Ms. Rue began handing out the papers, walking up and down the aisles giving each of us our paper.  When she got to me she put my paper down on my desk, tapped on the paper where the red grade was at the top and tapped again.  I could not look up at her.  It was humiliating.  I had never been so close to hell in my life.  Ms. Rue must have seen me cheat and also must have knows the specifics of what I had done.

Ms Rue wrote on the 2nd page of my paper that if I had not put negative signs next to the numbers, I would have got an A.  But since I did, I got a D.  I only had just a few correct.  More words were said to me later by Ms. Rue…but at least not in front of the other students.

I never cheated in school again.   Never.

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