Yesterday's Magazette

9 – Meeting The Ogre


Meeting The Ogre

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By Carrillee Burke

I was an excited little girl when I boarded the big yellow bus for school on March 17, 1942. My father had wished me a good day when he left for work and my mother tied a green ribbon in my hair and assured me there would be a special supper for me that night because it was my birthday, and St. Patrick’s Day to boot.

Miss Allen, my second grade teacher, had decorated the classroom with a cardboard rainbow arched across the blackboard with a leprechaun holding a pot of gold at one end. At the start of class, she announced that it was my birthday and the class sang Happy Birthday to me. I expected the announcement since she did this for each student.

On Miss Allen’s desk was a bowl of gold-wrapped candy resembling the coins in a leprechaun’s pot. She said she would read the story of St. Patrick and we would share the candy then. So that day was very exciting; that is until just before school was dismissed at 3 o’clock when Miss Allen answered a knock on the door and received a note from Mr. Snyder, the school principal. Miss Allen told me that Mr. Snyder wanted to see me in his office.

I turned into a scared little rabbit.

Even though she whispered, it seemed as if all my classmates heard her and moaned. She gave me the note to take with me and said I should take my coat and leave for home from his office.

I stared at her in a frozen state until she took my hand and led me to the door. From the hall I heard mumbling and nervous giggles until Miss Allen told the class to settle down. My feet encased in ankle-high brown shoes wouldn’t move. I stood in the hall and quivered.

I wasn’t a bad girl. What had I done?

From the first day of school, I had heard gossip about Mr. Snyder from not only the older students but from siblings, like my brother, who was then in the 5th grade.

He said he was mean and used a wooden paddle the size of a boat oar to punish students, even ones who were innocent of any crime. He loved to be mean, he said. He said he was like the Ogres in folklore and Jack and the Beanstalk who ate little girls alive.

In my two years of school I had only heard rumors of him. He was said to be a giant with a face like an angry monster. I had never seen him in the hallways or playground and now he was calling me to his office. Why me?

Months before, my mother told me if I ever had a chance to talk to him I should tell him my name because he was her distant kin. I said I would but, obviously, she didn’t know about the rumors.

Voices from inside closed classrooms echoed in the long empty hallway as I trudged to my destination near the back door where I could see yellow buses lined up outside the ancient discolored glass doors. One of those was my bus. For a moment I thought about running out the door, but my obedient young mind told me to obey my mother’s advice: “Always face your problems straight on.”

It seemed as if fright and anxiety had chilled and shrunk me to a stick figure, making my clothes too big and loose. Even my brown cotton stockings were now resting on the top of my shoes.

I shoved my cold, skinny arms through the coat sleeves while my feet froze to the floor in front of the door I’d never been beyond. Mr. Snyder’s name was printed in bold black letters on the frosted glass window. I was so engrossed in his name I didn’t realize he was near until he reached over me, opened the door, and guided me inside to a big wooden chair beside his desk.

My legs dangled over the edge of the seat and trembled so severely they shook my entire body. I unclenched my sweaty right fist and dropped the wrinkled, damp note onto the desk and pushed it toward him. Then I began to cry.

With tears streaming down my face, I looked directly at the short, dumpy little man who appeared as a fabled giant to me. Then I fulfilled the promise to my mother by stating my name.

“My name is Carrie Lockhart.”

His smile dimpled his ruddy, round face. “I know,” he said.

My voice quivered. “Why … why do you want to punish me?”

“Punish you, my dear? Oh, no. I want to give you something.”

He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a big round candy sucker wrapped in lime-green paper printed with white shamrocks.

With a big smile he gave me the candy and clasped my cold hands between his warm ones and said very affectionately, “Happy Birthday, Carrie.”

I swallowed all my fears that day and learned a valuable lesson: The principal was not an ogre after all.

*From the book, Country Girl, by Carrillee Collins Burke.

 

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