Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Like a Groundhog Loves its Slop...


I was in the second grade in the early seventies, a military brat who attended school at Parkway/Davis Hill Elementary in Fort Lewis, Washington. Every now and then, our teacher Mrs. Moore--a faintly Mediterranean-looking woman who provided an early crush source for a lot of us prepubescent boys--would relinquish control of her class to the school librarian for an hour. This typically plump and slightly stern-faced Baroness of the Books usually whiled away that hour reading kid-friendly selections to us (Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators come immediately to mind). But one day, as a special project, we received an art project (or at least the closest equivalent possible for a bunch of second graders) from her.

We were handed a picture of The Lollipop Dragon, a crudely-drawn cartoon firebreather who served as a sort of Barney/Smokey the Bear in classroom filmstrips (Christ, I'm old enough to remember filmstrips). The plump, stern-faced librarian asked us to color it.

Most of my classmates did their level best to color the Lollipop Dragon in perfect green hues, well within the lines. Me, I couldn't color in the lines for squat, plus I thought that this big-nostriled lizard would look pretty damn cool as Elvis. So with my crayons I drew him a jet-black pompadour, a fine little cherry red guitar, and a slick leather jacket. I also bestowed upon this rockabilly reptile a word balloon with rockin' lyrics ("I love my baby like a groundhog loves its slop," a phrase coined from my mother in one of her sillier moods).

The librarian saw my bit of impromptu graffiti and picked it up. I tensed up, thinking that I'd get chided for my revisionist take on the fire-breathing dragon. But the librarian stared at the picture for several seconds, smiled widely, and held it up to the class. "Now THIS," she said with a hearty chuckle,"is creative!" It was the first--and last--time I remember seeing this plump, stern-faced woman crack a smile. Then she gave the class an impromptu reading lesson with my mom's nonsense lyrics. Hearing a whole room of seven-year olds chant, "I love my baby like a groundhog loves its slop," struck me as incredibly surreal, even at that tender age.

Sorry that this has nothing to do with anything, but I figured I'd damned well better write something. It's been almost four weeks, y'know.

Hope you're doing well. I'll try not to be such a stranger.

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