TBT: First Day of Fourth

The Year: 1985

Orwell had gotten some if it wrong.

Not for any lack of trying, god knows, but because the technology hadn't quite caught up yet. And, as it turns out, who needs the Thought Police when a good marketing department can do the same thing?

Fox News is anything but subliminal.

Pete Rose just beat Ty Cobb's hit record. Go Pete. He'll be a Hall of Famer for sure.

"We Are The World" hits the airwaves and Michael Jackson just bought all the Beatle songs.

You say you want a revolution? Well . . . you know.

Iraq dropped some bombs on Iran. Apartheid is still real, East Germany is still very real, and the Glass-Steagal Act super-annoyingly unrepealed.

And I missed the first day of school.

I don't remember why though, honestly. It was probably some wedding or something, but I remember it not being all that big a deal.

Back in the good old days, the first day of school was always the Wednesday after Labor Day. You came in, found your seat and did nothing for three days, except decide how much you're gonna hate your teacher.

The following Monday was when things got rolling.

The reason I remember missing the first-first day was because I very much remember my-first day, and being distinctly lost.

Up on the chalk board (dry erase had not yet become king) was a riddle.

"Animal Beverage."

The teacher called it something. It was some sort of game. Those who solved the riddle got some sort of prize. (We didn't understand how sugar effects nine year olds back then, so I'm pretty sure the prize was candy)

I was super lost.

Thankfully I was sitting right next to Joe Mitchell.

The reason I remember his name exactly was because he was smart and confident and his best friend was named Mitchell Jo.

Swear to God.

Joe Mitchell was also friendlier than Mitchell Jo, I'd like to think it was because me and him had the same initials, but it might have been something else.

I might have asked Joe Mitchell for help since he was sitting right next to me.

But I think he was a classy kid and just saw that I was hopelessly lost.

"It's a rhyme." he said.

"lkjashdlkj?" I replied.

"It's a rhyme." he repeated. "You have to find a synonym that rhymes."

Yes, I did indeed think he said 'cinnamon'

But that was all the instruction he was able to whisper as our teacher cleared her throat and ushered us back to silence. I glanced over to him, hoping there was more, but he was busy solving the riddle himself. He tore off a sheet of paper and folded it and looked pleased with himself.

"What rhymes with 'Animal'?" I thought to myself.

And then I had my breakthrough.

Maybe it's not a word that rhymes with 'Animal', maybe it's an animal that rhymes.

The answer is 'Dodo'



Pronounced Dough Dough.

It's a bird.

And 'Dough' technically, rhymes with 'Dough'

Smug little me wrote that down and folded my own paper, looking very pleased.

The teacher came around the room with a big glass jar and had each of us put our folded answers inside. Once she had collected all the answers, she went to the chalkboard (we called them Blackboards then, even though they were clearly green), and one by one, began removing the folded slips of paper and writing down all the different answers.

Most of the kids, probably smarter than me, but definitly with three days worth of edge, answered  Moose Juice, with an honorable mention going to the kid who answered,  Deer Beer.

She wrote each of the wrong answers down too.

There were close ones like Goat Coke, and Mice Ice (technically not a beverage). And had I'd understood the game and been blessed, like I am now, with twenty years of professional lyric writing, I might have added Swine Wine, and Daughter Water. (Daughters are technically animals)

But all I had was Dodo.

And when she unfolded my paper, I already knew how hopelessly wrong I was, and feeling kinda bad about it.

She looked at my answer. Sighed. Annoyed. And wrote it down on the blackboard with the most dejected sense of tolerance I had ever seen.

I have felt very stupid many times, but that was the only time I ever felt as though my being stupid had actually ruined someone else's day.

I still feel the ache of that moment. Isn't it amazing how of all the things we accomplish in life, it's the insignificant paper cuts that leave the deepest scars.

I dropped my son off to his first day of fourth grade this morning. There were no weddings to attend, thankfully, so he's gonna get the same start as the rest of the kids.

And his teacher, unlike mine, is young and enthusiastic and hopefully it'll be many years before her soul is crushed by hundreds of little slips of paper with the word "Dodo" written on them.

Do you know why Dodo became a synonym for stupid?

It's because the odd looking little birds had never learned to fear mankind (or fourth grade teachers) and would walked right up to the barrel of a hunter's gun.

If I remember correctly, once they were discovered, they were extinct in less than ten years.

Thankfully, I'm a much quicker learner than the Dodo ever was.

And, thankfully, my son is a much quicker learner than me.

You tell me that it's evolution. Well . . . you know.

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