When I was in third or fourth grade, I remember one day coming in from recess and talking with my friends as I walked down the corridor to my classroom. I remember it was probably a good day; it wasn’t raining or cold and although I don’t remember what my activities were specifically during recess that day, it was probably like most every other day. I would have been playing on the playground with my friends and winding down on the way back to class.
All of a sudden I felt something yank on my shoulder from the back and a loud voice boomed through the corridor. It was the sixth grade teacher, Mr. Elliot. Apparently we were too loud for his liking on that day and I was closest - or perhaps loudest. His class was taking a test in the room I was walking by and I guess somehow we were supposed to know this. I don’t remember seeing a sign or otherwise being informed - there was nothing unusual about this particular day.
It had to have been around 1973 or 1974. It was the “post hippy” era and anyone who was anyone wore blue denim. A blue Levi denim shirt with the big collar and two breast pockets was the epitome of fashion. To have one that was embroidered with butterflies, ladybugs, mushrooms, dragonflies and the like in brightly colored, shiny embroidery thread just kicked the fashion statement up a notch. I don’t remember if they were available so customized at the retail level (if memory serves, they were but they were very expensive), but I have a mother who could do a far superior job and at a fraction of the cost.
I remember how hard she worked on it. I think there were several small designs and a large one on the back. My mom was always doing something crafty and when it comes to sewing (or knitting or crocheting or anything that has to do with the manipulation of string), she is the best there is. It’s still true today. She loved to make things for my siblings and me. When I felt my shoulder yank back that day, and I heard Mr. Elliot’s voice descend from over my head, one other sensation coursed through me.
Rip! I heard it and felt it. He ripped my shirt - my prized shirt - when he grabbed my shoulder. It was the first day I had worn it, my mom had worked on it for what seemed like (and it might have been) weeks. I couldn’t wait to show off my new duds and before the day was half way over, it was ruined. I think Mr. Elliot heard it too. I know my two best friends closest to me did. He let go immediately and said in a much quieter, although still intimidating voice to be quiet… his class was taking a test. I continued on to my classroom quite shaken and not knowing what to do.
They didn’t call my mom or dad to inform them of the incident. Policies regarding such matters might have been different then, but it hardly mattered. My mom is not the type of person to let something like this go. She was mad. Mad that a teacher had dared lay a hand on her son. Mad that a teacher had ruined something she put so much time and love into and furious that I was so profoundly affected by the whole incident. She went to school with me the next day - I went to class and she went to the office.
Later that same day, Mr. Elliot came into my classroom and apologized for ripping my shirt. Of course he made it clear that although the ripping of my shirt was unintentional, his action was justified because we were too loud when his students were testing. In other words it was an accident, as if to say, “Sorry about that,” and that would be that. I remember tears welling up in my eyes and choking out that my mom had just made that shirt. He said the rip wasn’t too bad and it could be fixed… or he would buy a new shirt… or something like that. Regardless, whatever my mom had said kept Mr. Elliot off my back for the next two years. He was a big, imposing figure and my mom is not, but she cut him off at the knees.
It was not the first time my mom had intervened with her considerable power when I had none. It was not the last. I don’t know what ever happened to Mr. Elliot. I know shortly after I left the school for seventh grade, he left the school too. He might be teaching still, although I don’t think he had the temperament for it. I can, however, say with confidence that he learned more from my mom in one day than I ever did from him.
Mothers are the greatest! Mine went to deal with a particularly obnoxious teacher of mine on more than one occasion (and she managed to do it without undermining the teacher's authority, too). Here from Michele's.
Aren't moms great! I am not a person who seeks out confrontation. I'm shy, and quiet, and I don't like to "rock the boat". But I understand where that comes from. I have two small children, and with them I am absolutely a mama bear. You don't mess with a mother's baby, no matter how old that baby gets! Good for your mom!
Isn't it amazing how something can affect us so profoundly when we are young that we still remember it vividly to this day.
I hope your mother gets to read this post. I am sure she would be very touched by it and by the fact that you remember what she did for you.
My mom went to bat for me when I was in the first grade, and was sent to the principal's office because I told the class that my mom had made the dress and pinafore I was wearing. It was the truth! My mom was a great seamstress. The proncipal bawled me out for "lying" and then called my mom, who came to the school and told them what asses they were for treating me that way before they knew the truth.
hey... don't mess with the mom!
michele sent me to ready this lovely story.
When mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
I love my mom!
Your mom is great! Mine would have done the opposite (cast the blame on me, it was always my fault).
This post brought back SO MANY memories! My best friend and I spent HOURS embroidering our jeans and our jeans jackets! We even made code names for the boys we liked and put those on their. LOL. Good old days :)
I don't recall my mom ever having to intervene with anyone at school, Mike. But I suppose she would have should the situation have come up.
That Elliot fellow must have really grabbed you hard to rip a denim shirt. That sort of behavior is quite uncalled for. I do remember those sorta things on our jeans back in the 70s though I had iron-on patches, as I recall.
Michele sent me over, Mike.
Just goes to show that you don't mess with moms. Mine was the same - she never put up with anything from anyone, and even though I was a tad embarassed at the time, I'm glad she did as much for me as she did.
Michele sent me.
Yay for awesome mom's mine's like thaat too. Always standing up for me if I need it
Michele sent me to say hello.
A touching story Michael. Aren't you glad we've go Moms on our side?
What a great story, Mike...Your Mom sounds like quite a wonderful and amazing woman! I'd love to know what she said to that teacher that day....How wonderful to have such a strong protective mother who also had such a lovely soft loving side....sewing on those sweet things....!
OOOPS! Forgot to say Michele sent me tonight!
In my mind, the shirt was mended and you wore it 100 more times. What an ass that teacher was.
My mum never went in to bat for me like that - if that had been me, the ripped shirt would've been my own fault and I would've been punished for it.
But it's nice that you all have such wonderful memories.
Michele sent me to see you, Mike....
It warms my heart to read about a mother who is there for her child when he or she needs it the most. This is the absolute epitome of parenthood, and your writer's voice made it so, so clear.
I hope you have a special Levis shirt in your wardrobe today.
You should post a picture of the shirt. Sounds swell...
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