Picture it: a crisp fall morning, 1982. An 11-year-old girl wakes up in her lemon-yellow bedroom. As she stretches herself awake, she realizes with dread that she forgot to do her spelling homework – she left the book at school. Worse yet! She remembers there is also a spelling test first thing this morning. She flies about, getting ready for school as fast as she can. Maybe, just maybe, she can get the work done before breakfast.
Competition for the house’s single bathroom slows her down. Arghhh!
Still, she hits the kitchen early, grabs a box of cereal and checks the time. There is none. She’s due to leave the house in a few minutes to walk the two blocks to her safety patrol corner.
Yes, this responsible gal is a member of the sixth-grade safety patrol, an honor bestowed on only the best of students. The few, the proud, the safety patrol. Making crosswalks safe for all kids under age 11.
If only she could skip safety patrol this morning! That would give her the extra time to get to school early, do the work, and study.
Quickly, she analyzes the problem. Without the book, there’s no way she can study on her patrol corner. And there’s no time to run to school to get it, her corner’s the opposite direction.
What to do? Risk failing the test, embarrassing herself in front of the whole class for not studying, for not living up to Mrs. Piepenbrink’s expectations? Or risk asking for help with her safety patrol duty?
Mrs. P had famously high standards. For everything. In addition to teaching sixth grade, she was head of the Safety Patrol. But hadn’t she also lectured the class several times, reminding them that school work was their job, their first responsibility?
Yes. Yes, she had. Decision made. The girl chooses studying over Safety Patrol.
Thankfully, the Safety Patrol system had redundancies built in. Partners. And an alternate.
No kid worked a corner alone, you see, lest they be kidnapped or tempted to take candy from a stranger. No stranger would dare attempt to kidnap two kids at once!
It only took one person to stop traffic and help the kids across. Heck, some days, you didn’t need that. But you can’t just not show up, Mrs. P. said. If a patrol member can’t serve, for any reason, it’s their responsibility to call the Captain of the patrol and let him know. The Captain would then fill in, so your partner wouldn’t be alone. Bert. She’d have to call Bert.
When she called Bert, he was chipper as usual. She explained the problem. He agreed to cover her corner, no worries. Easy peasy.
Happy with her amazing problem-solving abilities, the girl sighed in relief and poured a bowl of Wheaties. Breakfast was gobbled in five minutes flat, leaving plenty of time to run to school and finish the spelling work at her desk. She got to the classroom early – even before Mrs. P. The girl smiled, thinking how proud Mrs. P would be that she solved her problem with no fuss, no muss.
Mrs. P was not proud, she was angry that the girl was not on her corner.
(That sounds bad. Remember, Mrs. P is a sixth-grade teacher, not a pimp.)
The girl explained, with joy, how she got it covered. Bert was there, all was well. Before the other kids arrive, Mrs. P chastises the girl. How irresponsible! How disappointing!
The girl, no longer proud of her quick thinking and problem-solving abilities, now feels only shame. She aces the spelling test, but never understands what she did that made Mrs. P so angry.
Until she’s around 47 and has been thinking about it for an hour or so. 😊
I have to say, I would make the same decision again. Sure, my choice could be seen as a little self-centered – I was 11, after all. Maybe that’s what Mrs. P. was mad about. But I followed the rules as I knew them: school was top priority and call if you can’t work the corner. Sometimes in life, you have to make tough choices. I knew it then, and I know it now.
What brings me down this particular memory lane? I am thinking about my old friend Bert. I am making a t-shirt quilt for his lovely daughter, who turned 18 earlier this month. In her box of t-shirts was one with “FIRE PATROL” written across the back. It gave me a lot of elementary school flashbacks.
I am pleased as punch to tell you that most of my toughest decisions these days revolve around quilts instead of intense moral quandaries such as the Safety Patrol incident. Today I am more likely to be caught up in questions like: Should I use a pattern or wing it? Which fabric looks best for the backing? Do I want wool or polyester batting? Do I really need MORE fabric?
(That last question may, in fact, be a moral dilemma. All you quilters will understand, I’m sure.)
At any rate, t-shirt quilts are fun, and I also get to relive my youth a bit as I work on this quilt. So far, it’s just a colorful pile of fabric. But soon it will be a warm memory that she can literally wrap up in. That’ll be nice.
In other works, I’ve finished piecing my Happy Stars Quilt (pattern is Baby Blocks from Missouri Star Quilt Co.) – it’s a giant 106” x 106” – it almost reaches bedspread status. May be awhile before it gets quilted. I’ve got a small wall quilt (the Dresden Plate, below) on the longarm now, I’ll have more pictures of that to show soon. It is also a MSQC pattern, Dresden Sunburst.