Straw Stealer

April 17, 2008
By Laura Ferruggia, Voorhees, NJ

You haven’t stood where I’m standing.

From here, everyone else is right, and I am always, always wrong. I’m too naïve. I haven’t seen enough of the world. I should therefore sit back and let the big kids tell me what’s real. Your experiences determine your value. If this is the second time you’re doing kindergarten, that means you know everything there is to know about kindergarten.

I’m five years old all over again, and these two girls, the kindergarten repeaters, are sulking in a corner and having a Serious Discussion. I ask what’s wrong, and one tells me I “wouldn’t understand.” I’m just a little girl. I should be in preschool; all my friends’ mothers told mine I was too immature to start school so soon. These girls, on the other hand, are old enough to be in first grade. There is no way in the world I could even begin to understand whatever is bothering them.

Stealing all the straws is more on my level, and that’s what I do at milk time. While I’m sitting in time-out, it dawns on me.

They’re right.

I don’t understand.

I don’t really care, either.

But it’s been beat into me that I should, so I will feel ashamed and stupid anyway.

Skip ahead to fifth grade, and another girl is telling me she’s never gotten lower than an A-. Before report cards, she always begs the teacher to let her do extra credit projects, and I assume this is only because she’s such a good student.

Me, I think our classes are bogus. I’d rather read books than do my work. The truth is, the things I care about are the things that count to no one but me—and in your world, that makes me as inadequate as they come. Still, I’m truthful. As crappy as it feels, I’d rather be inadequate than bogus.

This honesty is what leads me to believe that she must truly be a smart, straight A student.

I hardly know what a lie is until I find out Santa Claus isn’t real, and I cry and cry for days. Everything magical, everything supernatural, everything impossible: it’s all fake. There is no worse thing for a kid to realize.

But once I accept it, I’ve been enlightened.

Santa isn’t real.

That girl was lying about her grades.

Those other girls were way stupider than I was.

With time, the revelations will fall on my head in abundance. The truth will reveal itself as I defend it.

I may not be special, but neither is anyone else.

The difference is I’m willing to accept that I’m naïve, willing to accept there are things I don’t understand. You can thrive on false superiority complexes while I shrug and say, “I don’t know.”

I’d rather admit I don’t know than invent something to compensate for it. I’ve known it all along, but now I’m one hundred percent shame free.

Maybe that makes me boring, but so are you.

The unfortunate thing is no one else is going to care what I have to say because I’m too immature and naïve.

You’re a kindergarten repeater, you lie about your grades, you tell children a magical fat man gives them presents; you enjoy reality television, you take weight loss pills, your antidepressants solve every problem; you can always tell when the phone is about to ring, there are ghosts in your house, you saw a UFO and were abducted by aliens.

But I’m standing against the fence at recess, and you’re the one who told on me. I’m the bad kid, and you’re the good kid.

From your place on the swings, you know just about everything. Surely you’d be standing where I am if you didn’t.

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