In some ways, my older sister Phyllis was a parent’s dream. She would walk a mile to follow a rule and was always on the lookout to alert my parents of mine and Billy’s actual or suspected transgressions. We must have been satisfying siblings to a natural-born tattler. On occasion she would report, “Linda did such and such.”
Most of the time, Mother either took action or sent Phyllis back to straighten me out. However, once in a while, Mother replied, “That’s okay.”
Realizing she’d needlessly missed out on the fun, she’d ask. “Then can I?”
Phyllis was a perfect student and never missed a spelling words the whole time she was in grade school except for forgetting to dot the I in President and not crossing the T in Grandfather. When I followed three years behind her, the teacher always said, “Oh, you’re Phyllis’s sister. She was the best kid in class and always did such neat work.” I was so proud the first time I heard that ominous description, totally unaware that I wouldn’t be shooed into that position with no effort on my part. I thought the role was inherited, not earned. I wasn’t even on the good kid list. I was sloppy, careless in my work, chattered incessantly, rarely got to class with homework or school supplies, and was best-known for staring out the window when I should have been listening. Billy, who followed three years behind me probably dealt with a whole new type of comparison. The second day of school, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mother and Daddy that Mrs. Crow said I was a scatterbrain, having no idea it was not an honor. It didn’t take long for Daddy to bring me up to speed on that.
I was fairly bouncing my first day of school, delighted with my red and green-checked book satchel and school supplies. I’d been admiring the two fat yellow, pencils, box of eight chubby crayons, jar of paste, blunt-ended scissors, and Big Chief tablet for days. When Mrs. Crow had us introduce ourselves, I was horrified to find I was sitting next to a girl named Virginia. Weeks before I started school, Phyllis had misinformed me that the name of female genitalia was Virginia. I couldn’t imagine what would make any parent name their little girl after that particular body part, but knew I wouldn’t be able to talk to her. I might get in trouble for talking dirty. If that wasn’t bad enough, the boy on the other side of me was named Peter! I hadn’t been in class an hour before Mrs. Crow confiscated my paste just because I tasted it, finding it sweet, but pretty bland. She didn’t like it when I stuck my fat yellow pencil up my nose, either. My school experience was going downhill fast.