Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eddy is Alright

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Eddy moped to school one day. He kicked the autumn leaves up with one boot then back behind him with the other. He could see the gray sky directly above him the last few days. The trees lining the path held up their branches as if being arrested. Indeed, no more growing...not until next Spring.

Eddy wanted to be like one of these trees. For weeks, he saw his wrists below his sleeves. He could not decide whether to pull his pants up higher to cover his belly or down to cover his ankles. Eddy wanted to stop - stop growing, stop whining. He just felt bizarre.

Eddy often came home from school and darted straight upstairs to tend to his stuffed zoo animals. “They haven't eaten all day!” He'd yell down to his mother who wanted him to do his homework.

In the evening, Dad would run the bath water then leave him to wash up himself. “No bubbles or playing around. "Wash quickly and come down for dinner.” Eddy sulked while he soaked.

Eddy was in primary school, second grade exactly. He had two spelling tests each week, math tests unannounced, and sometimes recess was even cut short. Eddy's pencil never left his hand. His eraser was never out of reach. His legs would be aching by lunch time.

“Eddy, pick up your feet or we're going to be late.” Dad was skipping along with his sister pretending to be horses.

“Can I ride?” He looked up hopeful and started his own gallop.

Just around the corner from the school building, at the edge of the soccer field, Eddy dug his heels down, quick.

“Riding your pony to school, Eddy?” a big kid snickered. “I better watch where I step.” His friends exploded in laughter.

Eddy did not look up again until he was through the main door. He waved goodbye to his dad and his sister. They turned the corner towards the kindergarten classroom.

Eddy watched his little sister through the window by his desk. She and her friends were playing tag. He wanted to run after her, catch her and giggle, twirl around and fall onto the grass. But, his class did not have recess again until after lunch.

Eddy read a chapter of a story out loud, did his language worksheet, calculated his multiplication table, left for music class, came back and got his lunch ticket from his coat pocket.

In the cafeteria, Eddy was behind a first grader, Jack. Jack's sweatshirt hung past his thumbs. With one hand on his tray, the other hand was grabbing at the waist of his jeans. Eddy thought Jack was trying to dress like his big brother in middle school by letting his pants slide down.

“I hate my brother's clothes!” He blurted out after grabbing a milk carton. “My mother keeps giving me these clothes but they don't fit yet.” We should trade, Eddy thought. “I wish I was bigger!” Eddy just picked up a salad and kept walking.

A large bus, like the ones for vacations, pulled into the school's driveway. Eddy's class was going to the nature museum. With his folder under his arm and his pencil behind his ear, Eddy climbed the steps into the bus and found his partner already sitting by the window.

“You can write everything down. I'll get the answers on the way back.” Phil told him. Eddy liked Phil when it was time to pick gym teams or sit in assembly. He was always a crack-up. But, when they had to work, Eddy might as well be by himself.

“Line-up against the wall so everyone can see.” Ms. Kroke was in charge of the exhibit. She did not waste any time.

“Picture a frog. Does this look like a frog?” She held up a big mass of jelly with black dots.

The class walked down the hall in a straight line.

“These eggs will hatch into this. Does this look like a frog?” She held up a clear, plastic container with little squigglies swimming around.

The class continued down the hall to the right.

“These tadpoles will grow tiny legs. Does this look like a frog?” She held up a glass box. Something half-way between a slimy bug and a fish sat on a stone.

The class continued down the hall to the left.

“The froglets will grow into adult frogs. Their physical shape changes. As you see, the eyes move to the top of their heads. Their mouths no longer suck but open. Their diets also change. Tadpoles are vegetarians. Frogs are carnivores.”

“I'm glad we don't have to go through all that!” Phil nudged Eddy with his elbow. Eddy just looked at him with one eyebrow raised.

“What other living being starts off in a pouch of water, then crawls on the ground, then stands with two feet and also changes diet throughout its growing years?” Ms. Kroke had overheard Phil and was looking right at him.

The teacher saved him from certain embarrassment by announcing that the bus driver was back. “Think about that question. When we get back to the classroom, you'll have until the bell rings to write your answer on the back of the worksheet. Now, say thank you to Ms. Kroke and follow me.”

Back on the bus, Phil pushed past Eddy to sit by the window again. Eddy got out his paper and started writing down the stages of a frog's life. Phil did not even notice. He was too busy sticking his tongue out at passing cars.

Eddy flung his coat on the back of his chair. He turned over his worksheet and started writing down his thoughts about the museum lady's question. The bell would ring in just fifteen minutes.

He described how each change might feel bizarre, going from having a tail to legs that jump, from looking with eyes down to looking all around, from sucking with a mouth to opening it wide for bigger food.

With a minute before the bell, Eddy sat up. He looked around the room. He saw that Billy's feet actually touched the floor when he sat at his desk this year. He saw Laurie had already finished her work and was reading a magazine to herself. Eddy knew his answer now. He wrote it down in the middle of the paper just as the chairs were screeching back from their desks.

Phil poked Eddy from behind with his pencil.

“Hey! What's that for?” Eddy asked.

“What did you write? What was the answer? I completely forgot to copy your worksheet on the bus.”

Eddy picked up his backpack and slung it around him. “I need to go get my sister now.”

Phil raced behind him down the hallway. “Wait, how do I know what the answer is?!”

By this time, Eddy was at his sister's classroom. He took her hand and turned around.

Phil was in his face. “Well? What do you say?”

“Grow up!” And with those words, Eddy picked up his little sister and went home.

What do you think?

*How do you feel about growing up? What are you looking forward to? What do you not want to change?
*Do you still look like you did as a baby? What has already changed about you?
*Everyone grows, but in their own time. What do you notice about Eddy's classmates? Who still has growing up to do?

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