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Dessert Firstby Hallie Durand
MRS. HOWDY DOODY
I don't know if Mrs. Howdy Doody is her real God-given name or not, but on the very f irst day of third grade, our teacher told us to call her that. She also told us, on that very f irst day, to march to our own drummers. Then she said, "Watch and learn." And right there in front of us, even though we didn't know her very well, she put on her white snowball slippers and marched around the classroom. She has big feet, and she took big steps, but she didn't make a sound because of the slippers.
"It's time to get acquainted," she said when she sat back down. I didn't know what to expect after the marching, but she reached under her desk and brought out a shiny piece of wood. She held it up for the class to see — it had a pair of roller skates and a pair of swim f ins painted on it. "This is my coat of arms," she said, "and you can see that it tells you something about me. It tells you that I am a creature of land and sea, for starters.
"Now, reach into your desk," she said. I was disappointed that the "watching" part hadn't lasted very long, but I put my hand in my desk and pulled out a shiny piece of wood just like Mrs. Howdy Doody's. I reached in again and pulled out a perfectly new set of paints, with a brand-new brush for each color. From what I could tell, Mrs. Howdy Doody and I were going to get along pretty well.
"You now have your raw materials," she said, as she held up her coat of arms again. "Traditionally," she continued, "a coat of arms is used to indicate your family dis-tinctions. But I want yours to tell me what you are most passionate about.
"My dear happy learners," she said, "show me what you love!"
I'd never been called a happy learner before, and I wasn't sure I liked it, but I did try to think about what I loved. I saw that Donnie and Billy were already painting action f igures. Donnie and Billy are twins, and I've known them for a long time. For sure, action f igures are their passion. They always have a few in their pockets. Then Melissa R. asked if she could use rubber cement, and Emily V. asked for glitter. I didn't understand how they all knew what to do so fast.
Even Amy D. had something already. It was either a roller coaster or my sister Charlie's hair (they look the same the way she draws). I couldn't believe I was stuck in the same class as Amy D. again. We've been enemies since f irst grade, ever since she stuf fed leaves in my mouth and called me "Tree."
It still makes me mad to think about that Leaf Stuf fer, and here she was almost finished with her coat of arms when I hadn't even started.
What oh what did I love?
It certainly wasn't Charlie, and it certainly wasn't either of my brothers, Wolfgang or Mushy (they could be cute once in a while but not all the time). And it certainly was not mayonnaise. Just thinking about mayonnaise made me sick. There was only one thing I knew that I loved all the time. And that was my dog, Chunky — he's been with me since I was one. I wouldn't even need all the paints to color him; all I needed was black and white. I drew him to f ill up the entire board because he is big — he's part Rotty. I added a few gray hairs around his eyes, just to let people know how wise he is.
Then I signed my name.
You might want to know about the cherry. I call it f lair. It could be on top of a banana split, a cornf lake-cream-cheese cookie, a hot-fudge sundae, or even a freshly baked lemon square, like the ones Mummy made last night. Also, it shows my personal style.
Mrs. Howdy Doody came by and said, "That looks like a very large dog to me."
"This is Chunky," I said. "I've known him since I was one — that makes him forty-nine years old in our system."
"That's almost half a lifetime," Mrs. Howdy Doody said. Then she looked at my signature and said, "What in the wide world is that, Dessert Schneider?"
"It's a cherry," I said.
"Yes," I said. "A maraschino cherry."
"A maraschino cherry," said Mrs. Howdy Doody. "When it comes right down to it, that's really all you need in life, isn't it?"
"Plus something to put it on," I said, and we nodded at each other. I was convinced it was going to be an amazing year (except for Amy D.).
Text copyright © 2009 by Hallie Durand
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