Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Old Theme, New Twist

The first day of school was a roaring success. ZBoy found his class by himself and immersed himself back into the day-to-day routine. When I got home from work last night, he was reading the Rules of Conduct booklet that the schools all send home to be read and signed. After dinner, we sat down at the cleared table and filled out all the forms that were sent home to be returned the next day.

With a certain sense of satifaction, I dropped ZBoy off at school this morning - all forms securely zipped into his back pack.

As I drove down the driveway to rejoin the going-to-work traffic, I noticed a woman striding up the sidewalk and clutching the hand of a reluctant child, skipping in spite of himself to keep up with her.

Have you ever read THE SCARLET LETTER? It's a classic American novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the mid-1800s. His heroine is Hester Prynne, a woman alone who gives birth after committing adultery, then refuses to name the father. As a badge of shame, she is forced to wear a scarlet letter A on her chest so that the town will know that she is an adulteress.

Hester crossed my mind as I watched this mother dragging her son to his second day of school. Not because I thought the kid might have been born out of wedlock, but because his mother wore a bright red shirt; across her chest was emblazoned the word "Illiterate".

Why would anyone advertise something like that? It's like standing beneath a giant flashing neon arrow that says "Lazy but Proud".

Because, unlike Hester, this woman could change her circumstances. Hester lived in a time when having a child of adultery was a HUGE problem. But once the seed was planted, there wasn't a whole lot she could do about it, but bear the child, endure the stares, and live as quietly and diginified as possible given the circumstances. "Illiterate" Mom just has to do the work, take the class, admit the problem - and the whole world could open up to her in a way she never dreamed.

I can't imagine not being able to read. To me, it would be like not being able to breathe. Reading is just as necessary to my life as respiration.

I really hope that "Illiterate" Mom is dragging her son to school because she KNOWS how important being able to read is. And that after she drops him off, she's going to go and learn how for herself. She could take that "A" off and change her life.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...
She wears a t-shirt emblazoned with "illiterate?" Is this something new in Tallahassee government, like Jews wearing gold stars?

I guess we can rule out her having made the shirt herself... "illiterate" is a big word...

John

nikki said...

Maybe the shirt was supposed to be a really bad joke. If it was, than no one is laughing.

hulagirlatheart said...

That's really sad, especially if it WAS supposed to be a joke. I can't imagine what it would be like to be unable to read.

JR said...

Don't judge her too harshly. After all, she doesn't know what the shirt actually says.

Anonymous said...

The "KOLLEGE" one was probably dirty...

John

Sandcastle Momma said...

I have a friend who couldn't read until he was 47. He would never have advertised that fact and instead spent years trying to hide it. That woman should have been wearing a shirt that said Ignorant instead. Sad if she can't read and even sadder if she thought that was funny.
Some people just shouldn't be allowed to dress themselves.

HoosierGirl5 said...

I think, sadly, it was supposed to be a joke. There are many adults who scoff, in one way or another, at the importance of education. She was probably in a hurry to get him to school so she could do what SHE wanted to do.

I'm glad Z-boy had a good start.

J.

That girl said...

Wait, isn't school supposed to start in September?

Secondly, could this not just be a dumb joke? Do you really think she'd advertise being illiterate?

Hmmm... I wonder.

Patience said...

Maybe she just doesn't know what the word means. Sad, though.

Stephanie, Mama Dramatist said...

I would like to think that she somehow knew what the shirt said and was wearing it in determination that her child would NOT end up that way.

Yeah, call me Pollyanna...