Saturday, April 20, 2024

R is for Readin', 'Ritin', and 'Rithmetic


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter R

I am in the process of sorting through everything in my parents' home, and in so doing, I have been looking through all my childhood memorabilia, the majority of which I hadn't seen since my parents packed up my belongings and moved them from the home I grew up in to this house some 45 years ago. My 2024 A to Z Challenge theme is based on the treasures I have found in the boxes and the drawers and closets. Join me on my bittersweet journey back to my childhood.

I was never much for 'rithmetic. As I wrote in M is for McDonalds, I hid my hand and counted on my fingers when I had to add up an order back in the days before computers when we had to use an order pad, a pencil, and a tax chart. I was terrible at memorizing multiplication facts, and when we did the timed tests, like, every single freakin' day of fourth grade, my friend Liz and I would trade papers when we graded them and write in each other's missed answers.  I didn't know how to do long division correctly until I taught fourth grade and had a teacher's manual. I barely passed Algebra I and II in high school, and when no one made me take more math than that, I filled my schedule with English classes and drama classes and lightweight social studies classes such as Psychology and Sociology.

I always loved readin', although I hated when we had to read aloud in class, as I didn't like everyone looking at me. I loved the Ginny and Geneva books and the Cathy books by Catherine Wooley, as well as Jean Little's books. When I was in fourth grade, the librarian introduced me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, and I loved them so much, I bought the entire series, book by book. I still have them, and my kids read them and loved them, too. 

And 'ritin'? If I was predestined to be a teacher, then I was also predestined to be a writer, because I reveled in writing papers in my literature classes. I began keeping a journal in 8th grade and wrote in one nearly daily for almost 20 years.

In my cedar chest in my old room, I found this story from one of the English classes I took to avoid math:

"Z was once a piece of zinc, tinky, winky, blinky, tinky, tinkly, minky piece of zinc."
"Read it again!"
Grandma cast her eyes heavenward.
"Just one more time, please? Pretty please, with sugar and cinnamon on top?"
Grandma groaned, "All right, one more time, but that's all for today."
She began reading, with the little girl snuggled against her, "A was once an apple pie, pidy, widy, tidy, pidy, nice insidy, apple pie...."
As the little girl listened to her grandmother's smooth voice reading the alphabet, she thought about her grandma. When she was about three years old, she received a doll, a beautiful, baby doll named Cindy. Dyanne was sure Cindy was a real baby; well, sometimes, anyway. She was so sure, she had her grandma show her how to hold Cindy like mommies hold their babies. Grandma showed her once, but sometimes, Dyanne forgot how, and Grandma would show her again and again.
"H was once a little hen, henny, chenny, tenny, henny, eggsy-any little hen?"
Grandma knew how to do real baby things with Cindy. She taught Dyanne how to wrap a blanket around Cindy and how to burp her. Grandma showed her how to do these once, twice, again and again.
"N was once a little needle, needly, tweedly, threedly, needly, wisky, wheedly, little needle."
Every time Grandma came for a visit, she was confronted with Cindy and The Nonsense Alphabet Book. Every time, again and again. However, when Dyanne was seven years old, her Grandma died of cancer. She didn't understand very much, just that Grandma wouldn't be back to read to her, or show her how to hold Cindy the right way, not ever again. She didn't think about her Grandma a lot until several weeks later. She woke up in the night, crying, and her mother came to comfort her. Although she was seven, she understood the sense of never. It was a deep, dark, unreachable hole, untouchable to all.
"Z was once a piece of zinc, tinky, winky, blinky, tinky, tinkly, minky, piece of zinc."

My mom had kept a mimeographed copy of this little story that I had forgotten all about until now. Note: one thing I left out of the story is my grandma being there when I gave Cindy a haircut. I remember her saying, "Why did you cut off all Cindy's pretty hair?" And why? Because I thought it would grow back, of course!

Not my actual copy; mine looks much worse.

Cindy has been with me always. She has moved to apartments and houses
all over the country, spending her retirement in my little rocking chair. 
She is wearing my baby shoes, but some 30 years ago, 
I bought her 
a dress to replace the tattered one of mine she used to wear.
Photo cred to my husband, because I was out of town and needed
 a photo, and he nailed the shot in one try, although in all fairness,
Cindy is a pretty compliant model....


  1. That is such a nice story. Your doll looks cute with her short hair. Luckily because it hasn't grown out. I remember my sister and I got dolls and also some perfume. Not sure who gave us the perfume. We were about 6 and 4. We washed our dolls hair with it and the glue came out and the dolls were then baldies. So sad. Theirs didn't grow back either.

  2. Ummm...Cindy looks a bit creepy to me but after I watched the horror film Annabelle, all old dolls have that effect on me I guess. 'Rithmetic was my weakness at school too. I dropped out of of high school half way through year 11 (aged 17) and it was such a relief not to have to do maths for my matriculation course. Ironically, after qualifying for university without maths, I later did a post graduate course on teaching mathematics to assist me as a teacher.

  3. How sweet you kept Cindy. I had a baby doll I'd kept through the years but one granddaughter really loved her. When my son moved to Florida I handed her to that granddaughter... she was thrilled, and she hugged her all the way to Florida. Her new name is Big Baby and she still sits on her bed today. It's nice to have her loved again. I'm writing in my 9th year of the A to Z.

  4. What a blessing your Grandma was to you, I'm glad you had her for those years. I was not big on baby dolls, and neither were my daughters.

  5. I am also a mathophobe. I also hated those timed tests. What was the point? What does it matter how fast you can do a math problem? Oh, I did loathe those timed thingies. Algebra nearly sank me -- the only "D" I ever made. But geometry -- now, there was elegance and logic and none of that timed nonsense. I also loved Edward Lear, mainly for his limericks. Thank you for sharing wonderful memories of your grandma. What my grandma and I shared was a love of baseball.

  6. What a lovely story - I'm guessing anybody taught by you is very lucky...

  7. Aversion for math is commonly known. My challenge was physics. Basic math was okay. But the advanced level was a bit tough for me.

  8. I love your memories of your grandma. Such a sweet tribute!
    I remember reading and re-reading Jean Little's "Mine for Keeps."