by Bettie Macintyre
To me, the word ‘Metamorphosis’ is a colorful melodic noun that has awakened the vocality of my studdering impediment.’
Today’s the day I change and give the mighty Monarch its rightful reign as thoughts of yesteryear memories of the Elephant Mountains, a quaint old country town, and the changes a spinster schoolteacher has made in my life.
There were many great teachers that I have had within the many halls of education. My early journey was blessed growing up with my gram and gramp near the Casket Factory. Our school was located uptown, near Hogback Mountain, not far from the railroad spur and our tree-lined small town.
Our small school had air-raid drills, where we were taught to place our hands over our head and crouch under the desk just in case there was ever an Atomic Bomb attack. Our recess had wooden seated swings, a may-pole, and a bandstand in the middle of the Village Green. Recess shared the green with the town. We were country and we shared.
I liked that the boys entered the school on the left side and the girls on the right. We had our own designated coat hooks. Some of the boys wore their farming clothes, and they smelled. I lived with my gram, and I always wore clean clothes.
The day came when and it was time for me to enter the elementary school halls. There was no comparison of my auburn-plated braids to the red barretted fluffy white hair on Miss O’Connell. I glanced around the room at the ink-welled wooden school desks and selected one in the center of the front row. Ah, my first significant decision for my degree in higher education. I have arrived. I am a third-grader.
Perhaps you didn’t know my malady or even imagine, but I had a horrible speech impediment at that time in my delicate seventh year of life. Some called it chronic stuttering to simplify my disorder. It was she who helped me overcome the horrors of speaking in class, never mind out loud. It was terrible that the boys thought it hysterical and dipped my pigtails in the inkwell after I desperately tried to answer a question. Mine you, I knew the answer. I was a bright child and way beyond my learning abilities, but speaking was my disability among strangers. I wasn’t shy; I just couldn’t get my words to co-ordinated with my mouth, or to put it bluntly, fear!
Miss O’Connell’s brought a cocoon in on a branch, and I was fascinated. She explained how a metaphasis was going to occur. She then continued to explain that the next day we were going to write on the subject. If we wanted, we could write it as homework and bring it in tomorrow. Those that come in with a completed essay will enjoy an extra recess.
I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my gram the excitement of the cocoon and what would happen. My gram listened intently, then took out an old tattered book then began to read. My gram used to be a governess before she met grampa. Gram reviewed my papers and taught me all about life and everything a girl needs to know about change.
I sat and wrote my perfect hypothesis at seven years old, and the following day, handed it back to Miss O’Connell. After recess, she gave it back with an A marked in a red circle. I knew my gram would be delighted, and I was beaming.
Suddenly I heard a voice saying. “Bettie, would you please read your essay?” I tried and couldn’t say the title, only Met-ta. Then I sat down in the desk seat, in the center of the front row, put my head down, covered my head with my arms, and softly cried. Mostly all of my classmates laughed. They were disciplined but never let me forget. They continued to poke fun of me. My gram told me to pretend I wasn’t bothered, but It did!
Miss O’Connell noticed my discomfort and took me under her wing, so to say! She gave me a note to take home for my gram to sign, and my gram reviewed it and said it was a good idea. She explained how I was a bright child and how my brain accelerates faster than my speaking abilities. Miss O’Connell will teach you how to recognize the problem. She mentioned to my gram that she had noticed it on the first day of her third-grade class. She said she would show me how to match my brain and the voice by working with my vocals and co-ordinate both to speak without worry. She said that was why my speech came out garbled. Gram signed the paper, and I brought it back to Miss O’Connell.
The agreement meant I stayed in from recess for both the morning and afternoon sessions. Miss O’Connell taught me how to do the trick of reading and speaking by tapping my foot. She showed me how to change my mouth, tongue, and vocals to form the words for proper diction and enunciation. When my classmates went out for recess, especially the boys, they would make fun and infer that I couldn’t go for recess because I was a retarded.
I went home and practiced in the barn with my pet Bessie, and grampa came out into the barn. I didn’t want gram to know that my classmates injured my feeling. I decided it was time to talk with my wise grampa. He always makes me feel better when he picks me up with his big ole arms and holds me. Gramp said, “That life is full of changes, just like the butterfly’s struggles to come out of its cocoon and try to survive in this world. That Monarch has to work hard to create its change. You cannot allow anyone to stop you because of a laugh or they hurt your feelings. You need to survive just like the butterfly. Do you think the Monarch is going to stop if someone laughs? NO!. That is why it’s given the name Monarch. He reigns over his kingdom. You have to survive and become the best that you can be. Remember that!”
I’ll never forget the next day when I walked into my third-grade class and sat in my center, front-row seat. We did our Pledge of Allegiance, sat, and said the Lord’s Prayer. Miss O’Connell made her usual announcements. It was then, as everyone was seated, that Miss O’Connell asked me to stand.
I stood, and she repeated, “Bettie, what is happening with the cocoon? Look, Bettie, at the branch.”
I started to tap my foot as the butterfly was working itself out, and the Monarch was getting ready to arrive. I could see it getting ready, like my gramp said, “to reign over its kingdom.” ‘I took a deep breath, formed my lips, mouth, and prepared my vocals, as my foot was tapping, all I said, loud and clear, Metamorphosis!