The Tootsie Pop (or what would you do to be admired?)

I can remember walking to school for kindergarten; I would walk up 2 houses and cross the street.  The house on the corner had a chain link fence around the front yard; it was about 30″ tall, not very tall at all.  Inside the chain link fence was this arrangement of rectangular plots of land with plants, flowers and trees within concrete borders.  It looked like a secret garden and I wanted to explore it.  I can remember that the people who lived in the house didn’t really like kids, so we avoided that yard except to walk past on our way to school.

I was in Miss Washington’s kindergarten class.  She had dark hair in a classic bouffant style, and fair skin.  She had a soft voice and soft personality.  She wore classic 60’s suits of heavily textured polyester in vivid neon colors.  The classroom has a dark quality because we were on the shady side of the building and there were trees right outside the window. There were windows with beige venetian blinds on the back wall of the classroom opposite the entry door and on the corridor wall as well. Our classroom was located at the corner of the school building on the first floor.  There were doors at both ends of the classroom and one of the doors opened onto the wall of a seemingly very large corridor with very shiny floors and lockers lining the walls. Miss Washington’s desk was on the opposite side of the classroom facing the corridor and our desks were perpendicular to her desk and faced the chalkboard in the front of the classroom. The desks were made of wood and brownish gray metal and were proportional in size for 5 year olds.  The slanted wood looking laminate top had a groove carved in the center top to hold your pencil, and the top hinged open to reveal a thick metal basin in which to store our school supplies.  The attached plywood chair was attached to the desk at a frame on the bottom of the chair.

We students had done an assignment especially well one day because Miss Washington gave each of us a Tootsie Pop as a reward.  I remember mine was grape and it was gone all too quickly.  She handed one to every student in the class and then placed one remaining Tootsie Pop in her right hand desk drawer.  She then left the class to attend to something and left us students alone.  I thought of some reason that I had to be standing by Miss Washington’s desk, and I opened her desk drawer and took the last remaining Tootsie Pop for myself.  I went to my desk and sat down, undetected in my theft, feeling triumphant in my acquisition I quietly lifted the desktop and gently placed my Tootsie Pop in the safety of my desk basin for an after school treat.  Shortly thereafter, Miss Washington returned to the classroom, and at one point she looked in her desk drawer.  “I thought I had an extra Tootsie Roll for someone who isn’t here today”, Miss Washington said, and before I even thought about what I was doing, my hand shot up, I eagerly said, “I have an extra one you can have!”

I can remember the feeling of wanting to share but more importantly of wanting to be commended for sharing.  I was hungrier for the recognition and praise that I was for that Tootsie Roll. Miss Washington uncovered my deception quickly I’m sure and I must have confessed instantly.  I don’t remember exactly what Miss Washington said to me, I’m sure it involved disappointment and I was sent to the principal’s office very quickly.  I remember this balding man who was be the principal pacing in front of his desk.  He was holding onto a flat wooden paddle about the length of a baseball bat, and trying to scare me by telling me, “you know, I’m allowed to use this, but I really don’t want to”.  He rhythmically bounced the paddle against his hand to emphasize his point.  It did scare me; I didn’t want to get paddled, but not because it would hurt.  I didn’t want to get paddled because the attention I would have gotten attention in the class would not have been because I showed my generosity for a fellow classmate as I craved.  But feared that the other children would make fun of me and not play with me for getting in trouble and being sent to the principal’s office. It was a long walk back down that shiny corridor to Miss Washington’s classroom.


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