Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Her Mother's Words, A True Story

Today was the third day first grade. She had worn her two store-bought dresses, gifts from her grandma, on the first two days. So today she wore a pair of second-hand jeans and a homemade shirt. The shirt was made from fabric that used to hang over the small window in the front door of their brick bungalow. Her mother had fashioned it into a summer top with no buttons or zippers. It wrapped around her back in a way that made it complicated for her to get her head through the right hole. Often her mother had to come sort it out. Since it was now fall, the shirt was worn over a turtleneck. She pulled up her knee socks, her mother buckled her shoes, and they walked out the door.

Down the steps, down the walkway, turn right, down the sidewalk to the corner. At the corner they stopped. “Do you want to cross here?” her mother asked.

So far they had tried it both ways. The first day they turned at the corner, walked down that sidewalk, and crossed the street at the next corner before continuing on to the school. On the second day, they crossed the street right there at the corner. On the other side of the street they walked by a yard with a dog that barked. “Don’t let it know you’re scared,” her mother had coached. “Don’t run. Just keep walking. Just look straight ahead.” And though her heart was pounding, she did keep walking, not any faster but certainly not any slower, arms straight by her side. Glad her mother was beside her.

“Do you want to cross here?” her mother asked. The thought of that barking dog jumped to her throat in a lump. But some other part of her jumped forth as well. Some desire--courageous? stubborn?--not to hide from the dog or the fear. Or maybe to show her mother that she would not recognize the fear.

“Yes,” she said. They would walk right by that dog, eyes straight ahead.

“All right, have a good day at school,” her mother bent and briefly hugged her. She was meant to go on alone. She had been tricked! And abandoned! She could, of course, have said she changed her mind. She could have turned and walked safely down the dog-free street. She could even have asked her mother to walk along with her for one more day. But again that hard spot--independence? determination?--pushed forth.

She stepped one buckled, brown Buster Brown shoe into the street, then the other. If she had looked back she would have seen her mother watching her. But she did not look back. She walked closer and closer to the yard where the dog would bark. The first bark tore into her ears like a shock. But she didn’t break her stride. Her mother’s words echoed in her head, “Just keep walking. Don’t let it know that you’re scared.” Step, after step, eyes straight ahead, hands at her sides, until the barking grew fainter and finally was gone. Then her steps did perhaps speed up a bit, and she thrilled with relief and accomplishment. Soon she reached the school, alone, triumphant.

Back on the corner, her mother smiled as she turned and walked back to the house.


  1. You really are a remarkably good writer, Ang. Mom really loved reading this story in her "book".

  2. Oh that's so sweet! I really enjoyed reading that. I could feel the emotions as I read it.

  3. Yeah, I was gonna say - I have seen that before somewhere.....