Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Purple Pennie Picture

Congratulations! Your students has won the ‘Special Person’s Day’ Essay Contest

Your attendance is requested!

I told her so! I told her if she wrote about me she would win.

Her answer? “Then I’m going to do ‘you‘, because I REALLY want to win.”

Since the day my granddaughter discovered pens, and paper she has declared that one-day she was going to be a very famous writer. That’s wonderful as far as I’m concerned. I love words. I love written words. But she wasn’t supposed to start her illustrious career in the ‘first’ grade writing about her grandmother that sits in a wheelchair.

Special Persons Day is in connection with Valentines Day. It is a day of assembly, speeches, awards, presentations, and lunch with the students. Her school was a K - 8. It was a good-sized school with a good-sized population. There were a lot of essays submitted, but it had to be a foregone conclusion that if the student could write reasonably well, and had a grandmother that would show up in a wheelchair that particular student had a better chance then most of winning the contest.

I spent the better part of one evening trying to explain this concept to Anna. “It’s a great learning tool for young children; a person in a wheelchair being chosen to receive the honor. It teaches diversity and acceptance. Don’t you see, how will you know if you really were the best writer? Why don't you write about your father."

She spent five minutes explaining her concept to me. It came out something like ... ‘If you’ve got an edge, use it!”

She wanted to stand on that stage and read her essay. I didn’t want to have to roll out on that stage in my wheelchair. We compromised ... she wrote the essay and said I could get somebody else to roll my wheelchair out for me. “Just make certain you’re sitting in it!”

The big day arrived. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust me. She just knew how uncomfortable I was with the whole idea. She made me promise, with our secret handshake, that I would present myself at the required time.

I had never seen so many people at a school function. They were standing six deep around the seating area. I found a place that I could park the wheelchair and still see the stage, but it was way in the back of the crowd. My greatest hopes were that she would receive everything that she wished from this experience and that I could be ON and GONE.

They called her name and she went to the podium. A little tow-headed girl with a smile and an essay.

They called my name and I went to the podium. At any rate, I tried. I had put myself so far back it was almost impossible to get my wheelchair through that crowd. Then one of the parents said, “Ohhhhhh, she’s in a wheelchair!”

And like the parting of the Red Sea, parents slowly backed up and made a wide path for me. I not only had to go up on that stage I had to go down the aisle of “Ohhhhs and Ahhhhs”.

That was ’not’ what I wanted to do. But I had given her the secret handshake so I had to keep my word. I made it to the stage without screaming, crying, or hysterically laughing, but my jaw muscles were beginning to ache with the effort.

The principle shook my hand and placed a bouquet of red roses in my arms. Then she gave a short speech about each child having to draw a picture of the person that they had written about. She took a large roll of paper and slowly attached it to an easel. When she stepped away form the picture the aching in my jaws went way beyond my control and I started laughing. I laughed so hard that I almost choked. My granddaughters portrait of her Special Person, me, was a very large head (“Wheelchairs are too hard to draw, Pennie”) with yellow curly string hair going every which way, big blue circle eyes that stared straight ahead, big, bright red lips and a great big PURPLE face. All the tension that I had hidden inside flew away as I listened to the essay that she had written about the grandmother that sat in a wheelchair. The applause was a standing ovation and.....

The Purple Pennie Picture brought the house down.

The day was a great success. She got to be an essay winner, the children got an object lesson, the parents got a great laugh, and me? I got a precious memory.

Purple has always been my favorite color. She knew that.

An Update: Since she started taking guitar lessons she has decided she is going to be a famous, female rock star. My imagination isn't great enough to figure out what the secret handshake will get me into with that one.

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