The Things We Remember Are Astonishing

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI remember two things about second grade. 

First, was the day one of our classmates walked quickly up to the teacher’s desk, stood real close to her and started to whisper, “I think I’m going to be…,” at the exact moment she ruined the teacher’s clothes and gave the rest of us something to talk about for the rest of our lives. 

It was an astonishing sight – which brings me to the other thing I remember about second grade. 

I learned the word astonishing. 

We were issued two reading books that year. One was titled Enchanted Gates, and the other was Shining Bridges.  

They were brand new; and I think that’s why they still stand out in my mind more than 4 decades later. 

I remember the day the teacher unpacked the boxes and handed a copy to each of us. 

They were beautiful. They smelled new. Their covers were shiny. They cracked when we opened them. They didn’t have old, grimy chocolate fingerprints on the pages or any folded up pieces of notebook paper inside. 

No one had drawn in them nor written their initials on the textblock (which is what the front edge opposite the spine is called. I googled it.) 

My name would be on the first line of the “This Book Belongs To” sticker inside the front cover. 

We were instructed to go home and have our mothers make book covers from brown paper sacks to minimize the number of our grimy chocolate fingerprints we would leave for future students to endure. 

I am sure the stories in these books were captivating, but only one barely managed to stick with me at all. It was a story where a character named Ramona used the word astonishing. 

I cannot tell you what Ramona was describing, let alone anything else about the story. I merely remember seeing that huge word and thinking it must be the biggest word in the world. 

Plus, it was fun to say. 

I felt so grown up looking at that word in that second grade reading book. I imagine it was hard to believe just a year before we were limping through See Spot Run and struggling to figure out why Dick and Jane kept repeating the same three-word sentences over and over. 

By second grade, though, those days were finished. One-trick Spot was ancient history. Three-word sentences — are you kidding me? That’s kid-stuff. See you later, Dick. Adios, Jane. 

I’m sure we learned lots of other new words in second grade, but astonishing will always be my favorite. 

Using it in everyday life never caught on, though, and I know why. 

It’s not your fault, Ramona. You did all you could. You were stuck in a book and sketched with probably three freckles on each cheek, yellow hair and a frumpy brown sweater. You never had an opportunity to impact pop culture. 

To use your word, you weren’t astonishing enough. 

You weren’t on television. 

What if Marcia Brady would’ve said, “You have an astonishingly low number of friends, Jan?” 

What if Donny Osmond would’ve sung, “Until the twelfth of never, I’ll still be astonished by you?” 

What if astonishing would have replaced “shazam” or “yabba dabba doo?” 

Or, what if that Farrah Fawcett poster would’ve had “astonishing” printed across it? 

Our vocabularies would’ve been changed forever. 

Hitting that television at 3:30 was my favorite thing to do back in that day. Ol’ Ramona stayed in the book bag until I had my daily dose of comedy. 

Sometimes, I look back at those days and feel superficial. I always realize, though – as I’m sure you do — that more schooling stuck with us than we realize. After all, I’m writing this, and you’re reading it. 

We all know, however, it is not nearly as astonishing as Netflix. 

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him:

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