What do you call a baby bear?
There was a time when I cried a river because I was so confident when our stern English teacher, who chain-smoked and wore ruby-red lipstick five days a week, asked me what my answer was to the question: “What do you call a baby bear?” from our quiz. I encircled letter C which was boar so I said “C-Boar” ( it was just one letter away from bear) but my classmate said, “No it’s B-Cub” and he said it with a Duh, Are You For Real? face so I started tearing up. Then I bawled like the embarrassed five-year-old girl that I was.
The purple lunchbox
There was a time when I mistook my lunchbox for another classmate’s lunchbox. I ended up taking it home with me. I don’t blame myself though, since our lunchboxes were identical. No two things are absolutely the same but for a six-year-old, little things, actual details like light scratches or cheap stickers, were easy to miss. My lunchbox was from Price Smart, hers was probably purchased elsewhere but both of them were purple with a yellow handle and had a Baby Loony Tunes design in front.
When I got home that day, my mom was surprised to see me carrying a lunchbox. She said I left mine at home because whenever someone celebrated their birthday at school, our teacher would ask us to write down a reminder on our assignment notebooks–a reminder telling us that the birthday celebrant would be treating the class to fast food (minus the soft drinks.) Maybe I was in a rush to get to the school bus early, to avoid being squished between the sweaty grade school boys, that I somehow forgot that we had Jollibee spaghetti and birthday cake for snacks during recess.
The owner of the lunchbox called me at home that afternoon. She asked me to please, please go to her house in Ubas St. so I could return her kidnapped lunchbox. I made excuses (I didn’t want to trouble my dad so I could ask for a ride all the way to her house) but I brought it to school with me the next day.
Thinking about the lunchbox incident always makes me smile.
Find your height
There was a time when I felt self-conscious, for the first time ever, about my height when I overheard someone seated behind me say, “Oh, she’s sooo tall.” I was five or six, I think. I didn’t know how to regard the comment because it made me feel uneasy. It wasn’t hard finding my spot whenever teachers asked the class to “find your height.” What I would do was wait for everyone else to assemble so I could position myself at the back of the line. I actually never minded how lanky I was (most of the other kids were chubby and cute) before hearing that comment. Knowing that the cute little girls were usually in front of the line didn’t do wonders for my self-esteem as a kid. But things have changed.
The untold tale of the broken pencil
There was a time when I laughed but felt bad about it afterwards when the class bully sat at a guy classmate’s desk while said classmate was singing “My Heart Will Go On” for our practical test in music. The bully, whose name I still remember but refuse to divulge here, took a newly sharpened pencil from our classmate’s desk, stared him in the eye while our poor classmate’s voice shook as he sang, and, this was the part that shocked me–ground the pencil’s sharp lead on the desk then broke the pencil in half like a madman. A six-year-old madman!
My classmates continued revelling in the awkwardness unfolding before the blackboard. I (excluding the poor owner of the pencil, who feigned indifference and tried belting it out like Celine Dion) was the sole witness to that bully’s heinous crime.
Tears welled up in our classmate’s eyes and his voice shook even more violently. The funny thing was our teacher probably awarded him extra points for his seemingly sincere gut-wrenching performance. For fear of drawing attention to myself and getting scolded, I stifled my laughter. When the bully wasn’t reprimanded, that’s when I felt bad. Our geeky classmate let the bully win.
Most people think high school is cruel. I don’t. If high school is cruel, preschool is hell. The problem with children is that they’re so transparent with their emotions. You could look at this transparency in a positive light, but sometimes, you have to be plastic to avoid getting other people hurt.
There was a time when I almost gave up on reading. I was four and my English text book, with its exercises about pronouncing three- and four-letter words, was the enemy I planned to conquer. Not wanting to be at the bottom of the class, I was hard-pressed to get ahead of my classmates with reading. I was close to giving up when I couldn’t string together the sounds each letter made so I could utter the whole word. Even my mom, whom I asked to help, became frustrated with me. I learned. Eventually. Now I couldn’t imagine my life if I turned out to be dyslexic. I would’ve probably missed out on a lot of fairy tales.
There was a time when I brought pancit for our Farewell Party in Prep but was never able to discover what it tasted like. After the party was over, I went to the lobby to wait for my dad. I saw my teacher carrying the big bilao of pancit on one hand. She waved at me with the other as she innocently said, “Goodbye. Enjoy your summer vacation Karmela.”