Playing School

My holiday party season is over. I actually was glad to get up this morning and re-enter my normal life, even though it means getting up at 5:30 a.m., packing my husband’s lunch and wearing non-party shoes.

The high point of my holiday parties was playing school with Ashleigh, who led some of the smarter attendees of my friend Barbara’s Redneck New Year Party in a rousing round of The Letter Game.

The Letter Game, as Ashleigh explained in her sternest teacher voice, is where you take turns getting up and standing at the fireplace with a plastic knife in your hand. You tap the knife on the fireplace a couple of times and in your best teacher voice (or British accent, which I preferred and it went over well) you make a letter sound. The class has to guess what letter makes that sound. Then the class has to come up with a word that starts with that letter. Then the teacher says, “Well, that’s good . . . but can you give me another word, this time something that _______s and is ________.” The one to correctly guess gets to be the teacher in the next round, plus gets bragging rights and a free cracker and beer cheese.

Some of the better players were trying to turn it into a drinking game, seeing as it was the holiday season and all, but Ashleigh was having none of that. She wouldn’t let us go to the bathroom without a hall pass, either.

After The Letter Game, Ashleigh passed out papers to us and told us to draw a self portrait. Dang. I’m a terrible artist. Everyone said the same thing and Ashleigh was not sympathetic at all. “Just do your best,” she said, sighing and rolling her eyes.

I got a D. So did Barbara, who had to give herself an eye patch to cover up what I suspect was a serious mistake. Mary Jo drew herself as an 8-year-old Madeline with a big bow in her hair and Ashleigh gushed, “I love it!” and gave her an A. Damnit. I knew I should have done hair accessories.

I have to admit, it was surprisingly fun being the student in a game of school. I spent my entire childhood wanting to be the teacher, so I never let myself enjoy it. I always played school with older or bossier kids or friends who had more seniority, so while I yearned for the pretend grade book and the pointer, I was never the teacher; always the over-eager brown-nose student.

Even in high school, I joined Future Teachers of America and was a senior and vice president before I realized I didn’t really want to be a teacher for a living. I guess I just wanted to know the feeling of standing up in front of the class being in charge. I practiced my board erasing on my big black board at home, being careful not to let my butt shake too much when speed-erasing, so the kids wouldn’t make fun of me.

My high school government teacher (who we called “Beat” for three years after a weak moment when he told us the story of how he got stopped by a cop and the cop misread his first name, Bert, on his driver’s license) let me and my friend Diane K grade papers one summer for U.S. Government summer school and I had a tiny religious experience just using a red pen.

“Great job, Jerry!” I wrote on Jerry Stuckey’s tests. I don’t know if Jerry ever knew that it wasn’t Beat who was praising his work. I should be embarrassed to go to my class reunions, I know.

It would have made so much sense if I had just majored in education and become a teacher, at least for a little while. I may have been able to intimidate Ashleigh into letting me take over at the fireplace for a while.