Teachers Good & Bad – the Time I Was Told I’d Never Be a Writer

(**Note: I just found some old writings that I’m going to share…**)

Written March 28, 2011

I very much value my teacher’s opinions, and always have (except one asshole at Florida State). Teachers have been the ones that have helped me through my most difficult times in life – as a child and as an adult. That’s why I became a teacher for a little while, until we moved here and all of the jobs were cut.

Oh… there is another teacher I didn’t like. I was attending journalism courses at Defense Information School while I was serving in the army. I was 18 years old and having a difficult time adjusting to life in general, and not quite understanding some of my coursework. I had a female Navy instructor tell me that I didn’t know how to write and that I would never be a writer. I was pissed. I’d been writing creatively since I was a young child, and I knew I could write. I just didn’t like writing about sports, because I hated sports and didn’t understand how to play them, much less write about them. I felt like telling her to shove it, but because I was afraid of everything and could have lost my rank, among other things, I kept quiet and cried, because I had been taught my whole life to shut up.

I was even doing poorly in my photography class, which seemed impossible, because I’d been taking photos since I was eight and developing film since high school – another lifelong passion of mine. I had a major yelling in my face that I wasn’t trying hard enough. But I knew I was doing the best I could. I was bawling my head off. It was humiliating being in uniform and serving your country and far away from people that matter and being told that you basically suck. They were about to send me off to some shitty bullet-counting school until they learned I was sick.

I was diagnosed as anemic and with endometriosis at the same time. No wonder I couldn’t comprehend anything being taught to me! After about three or four weeks of being hospitalized and going through surgery and healing, I finally came back and conquered it all. I even won “Best Feature Photo” of my graduating class, which was a complete surprise.

I guess I did have a few other teachers that sucked, but I try to forget about them. Mrs. Briggs, for example. Second grade. She was the meanest, most abusive teacher around, calling kids stupid and always screaming at them. She taught until she croaked, and when I saw her obit in the paper, I didn’t even flinch. I actually felt relieved that no other kid has to ever be in her classroom again. I doubt any students were sad about seeing that woman pass. I still talk to people that had her as a teacher, and we all share the same horror stories. I wrote about her in my memoir Unheard.

(**This was a journal writing that I did that had multiple topics in it. I will post more later!**)

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 8 – told from a child’s point of view

Even though the visits become less frequent, I look forward to visiting Daddy, and I have already forgiven Bianca for butchering my hair. Their house is always warm and cozy. Bianca has down comforters and nice pillows and warm beds, and they have a warm fireplace for the winter, air conditioning for the hot months, and things that I’m not used to having. I am even allowed to take hot baths and sit in the tub for as long as I want!

I have wanted to shave my legs since fifth grade, because my friends are already shaving and making fun of me. Mom says I have to wait until I’m thirteen, but when I speak to Bianca about it, she gives me a razor and tells me to go at it. It must have taken me an hour or more, and I cut myself a few times, but I am grateful to be able to do at least one thing all of my friends are doing. Plus, I don’t have boy legs anymore.

By the middle of the summer between sixth and seventh grades, I decide that I want to live with Daddy and Bianca. They convince me that living with them will be better than living with Marcus and his drinking and drug habits.

I agree, but know that I will miss Mom. I hate the thought of leaving the babies and her alone with Marcus. What if something happens and she needs me? I hesitate calling Mom on the phone because I fear her reaction.

“I don’t want to tell her,” I say to Dad and Bianca.

“You’re the one that has to tell her, not us,” Bianca says.

I pick up the phone. Mom answers. I’m crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I don’t want to come home,” I say. “I want to stay here.”

I can tell she isn’t happy. But I also know that I might be in trouble if I do decide to go back home.

“Why don’t you come home and we’ll talk about it?” she says, but I feel that it is more than a suggestion.

My stomach knots. I can barely swallow. My heart races. I am scared to death and know I cannot turn back now. I cry harder. Daddy takes the phone from me. Bianca hugs me and says everything is going to be all right.

All I have to do is go back there to pack.

UNHEARD: a memoir Now Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 7

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 7 – told from a child’s point of view

Marcus makes up lies about everything. At first Mom doesn’t believe him, but he has a way of manipulating and convincing her that the sky is green, even though it’s blue. If she doesn’t believe him, they fight all night. It is a never-ending battle with him.

“See? See? That kid is making us fight again!” he tells her.

When I was eight years old, Marcus accused me of calling him a son of a bitch, which was a lie. He claimed he’d heard me say it when he was in his garbage truck one day when I was on my way to school with Rebekah. Passing him on our bikes and waving, we yelled, “Hi Marcus!”

But he ignored us. Instead, when I got home from school he claimed that one of the guys on the truck heard me call him a son of a bitch. No matter how much I swore that I never said that, and his story changed from one of the guys hearing it to hearing it himself, I was still in trouble. It didn’t matter what the truth was.

The truth was this: I hadn’t called him a son of a bitch at all; I actually called him an asshole, and it was under my breath so that no one could hear me. But I wasn’t about to tell him that.

* * * * *

I walk in from school and go to my room. I notice something on my bed – on my pillow. A gift? I am excited until I realize what it is.

“What is that on my pillow!?” I storm out of my room, down the steps.

I look at Mom.

“What’s on your pillow?” She is clueless.

“There’s a maxi pad on my pillow!” I yell.

Mom thinks it’s a joke, looks at Marcus.

“Did you put a pad on her pillow, Marcus?” Mom asks, puzzled.

“You left it on the bathroom floor. I stepped on it and blood came gushing out,” he lies. “I almost got sick.”

“You’re a liar!” I scream. “A big, disgusting liar! I hate you!”

I storm back to my room. He is the biggest liar I’ve ever known. There is no blood on it at all, but it doesn’t matter what the truth is even if the evidence is in plain view. I don’t think Mom believes him, either, because she knows I am not on my period. But instead of speaking up to him, she tells me not to worry about it.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 6 – told from a child’s point of view

Other family gatherings involve being with Marcus’s weird family. His father (whom Mom secretly calls Hitler because he is a tyrant and has a dark mustache) refers to all children as “rotten little kids”. I am no exception, but the name-calling doesn’t end there. Marcus’s obedient mother, Rose, is nice most of the time and tries to keep the kids as far from her husband as possible – and he sees to it she does just that.

Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t exempt them from being freaks. Marcus still refers to me as “The Monster,” particularly in front of his own family members, as if to impress them. They laugh and joke about calling me names; even when the babies were born everyone laughed and said they looked like aliens. I guess they think it’s okay and normal to make fun of people, especially small children. Sometimes Mom secretly looks at me and rolls her eyes, because she knows they are stupid and immature. Mom never really says anything, though. I think she’s afraid, so she pretends to laugh along with them. Rose does the same. I hate being around them.

Hitler has never been nice – never one kind word or gesture – nor does he ever speak to me except to bark out a command or an insult. Because he wears dark eyeglasses that hide his eyes, no one knows what he is looking at. Hitler served time in a Florida prison for embezzling money when he worked for the city. On top of that, he is weird and creepy and always stinks because he doesn’t wear deodorant. He isn’t very nice to the babies, either. When we moved out of their trailer and into the new ugly house, Mom discovered a peephole in the bedroom wall. Hitler had been secretly watching her.

Marcus’s younger brother, Melvin, is the only one in their family who is remotely nice to me. He flirts with me, and everyone else seems to think it’s cute and funny – even though I am only in sixth grade. I think it’s weird. Melvin is married to a teenaged girl from his high school. They’re going to have a baby together. Melvin also went to jail for tying up and having sex with a girl the same age as me.

Marcus’s older brother, Arthur, is just as weird as the rest of them. Most of the time he keeps quiet, but when he speaks he says stupid things. And he smells like a troll. Every time Arthur holds the babies under his arms, Mom has to wash their heads because their uncle does not wear deodorant. No wonder he never has a girlfriend.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 5 – told from a child’s point of view

Bianca has a way of making everyone believe her. She says she always cuts Daddy’s hair and her own, so I agree to let her cut mine after church. I look in the mirror a few times while she works on it, but I don’t like what I see. I think maybe she can fix it and allow her to keep cutting. But when I look in the mirror for the last time, I see that my beautiful, healthy, long dark hair has gone from being about eight inches below my shoulders to a shaggy, cropped mullet. I start crying, put on a painter’s hat, and run out the front door. At first I don’t know where I am going. Since it is only about two miles up the road, I decide to walk to Grandmaw’s.

The first person I see is Aunt Jackie.

“Oh hi, Susanna,” Aunt Jackie says. “I didn’t know that was you. I thought it was a boy walking down the road.”

I cry harder. I know Aunt Jackie doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but what she said is true. I do look like a boy. She hugs me, goes inside and tells Grandmaw about it.

“Why did she do that to your pretty hair, honey?” Grandmaw seems sad.

“She said she could cut it like I wanted it,” I tell her.

Uncle Charlie is shaking his head.

“That old bar whore can’t cut hair! She ain’t never went to school for that,” he speaks very loudly.

Grandmaw calls Daddy to come get me. Bianca gives him my things and makes Daddy drive me home alone.

“Your hair doesn’t look that bad,” he tells me.

I keep quiet the whole ride home. Mom is standing outside when we pull up to the house. I say goodbye to Daddy and he leaves.

“What did you do to your hair?” she looks horrified.

“Bianca cut it.”

“I don’t like it,” she frowns. “She should have left your hair alone. Why did you let her do it?”

“I don’t know,” I cry. “She told me she could cut hair. I thought she knew what she was doing.”

“She cuts your father’s hair and look at his!” She is mad. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing! That bitch!”

Mom stomps off to call Bianca and give her a piece of her mind, which usually means saying a few four letter words and mentioning Jesus Christ or God’s hamlet, even though I don’t think they have anything to do with it.

I want to go to school tomorrow, except that I don’t want anyone to see my hair. I pick at my arms, pondering what to do about it and decide that putting it up in pigtails will be the easiest way to hide the awful cut.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 4

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – told from a child’s point of view

I liked visiting Nana, but I didn’t like Grampa because he was grouchy and said weird things and repeated himself. Every time I saw him, his funny white fuzzy hair on top of his head looked like he just woke up. He wore plaid shorts and either a white t-shirt or a button up collared shirt if he were going somewhere, and he always had a glass of beer in his hand. I don’t think he liked kids much, either, because he yelled at me a lot.

“He’s a drunken jerk,” Gramma said.

He wasn’t her real father. She never knew her real father.

On our way back from Nana’s, Gramma took me to visit my Great Aunt Gabby. She owned a neurotic poodle that always jumped up and scratched my legs, barked incessantly, and peed on the floor. She was a very intelligent woman that enjoyed crossword puzzles and playing her piano, but she was always nervous and she seemed to shake a lot. Gramma said Aunt Gabby never left the house after dark because she was afraid of getting raped.

Aunt Gabby seemed very tall compared to Gramma, and she always wore white flat old lady shoes and flowery dresses that looked like nightgowns. I thought she might be pregnant because her belly stuck out even though she was skinny everywhere else.

“Is Aunt Gabby going to have a baby?” I asked Gramma.

Gramma laughed, “Noooo….”

“Why does her belly stick out like that?”

“That’s what happens when you get old.”

I overheard that one time Aunt Gabby had a baby and lost it, and I figured maybe that was why her belly still stuck out. It was lost somewhere in her belly.

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Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – Chapter 3

Excerpt from Unheard: a Memoir – as told from a child’s point of view:

Grandmaw got Daddy to go to a big church called Calvary where Aunt Marylou went, and he became born again. That meant that he loved Jesus, who was the only person to show him how Daddy was getting to Heaven. They told me I should be born again too, but I decided that I would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The spirit part scared me, because I thought that God’s son was a ghost. One night I was baptized in a big bathtub at the big Calvary church in front of a big audience. That’s when they handed me a microphone and I told them I love Jesus, even though I wasn’t sure I trusted Him, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t go to Heaven with the rest of my family if I didn’t do exactly as He said in the Bible. I think that water must have been dirty because I got sick a few days later. Maybe it was because my sins were still washing away.

I wasn’t sure I liked the Calvary church because it was boring and they made us read like they did in school instead of color and do crafts like some of the other churches we went to. Besides, they made me feel stupid when I didn’t know what some of the Bible meant.

I stopped liking the Sunday school after they asked us what we knew about Abraham. I raised my hand. I knew all about Abraham from school.

“Abraham was the sixteenth president of the United States!” I proudly announced.

“No,” the teacher scrunched up his face. “We’re talking about Abraham from the Bible.”

I guess he thought I was a dumb kid because he never called on me again. I liked the story about the president Abraham better anyway because he freed the slaves.

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