My daughter Holland has never been much of a student; she can’t help it, it’s her legacy, which means I’ve been called into the office for her nearly as much as I sat there myself back when it was me that wasn’t much.
The first time I sat across from a cross teacher was when Holland was in kindergarten. Mrs. Richards offered me a child-sized chair and when I sat with my chin nearly touching my knees and she sat opposite me in her adult-sized chair, it was obvious something was amiss.
“Is everything all right?” I wanted to know.
“Not really,” Mrs. Richards said. “We have a problem: Holland lacks scissor skills.”
“She lacks scissor skills,” Mrs. Richards pronounced each syllable slowly, so I could understand.
“She’s five!” My lower jaw bumped my knees.
“Holland needs to master scissor skills in order to be promoted to first grade,” the teacher explained. Mrs. Richards was as serious as a paper cut when she presented me with a pair of mutant scissors with four finger holes—not the usual two—so I could put my hand around my child’s and help her learn how to cut stuff out. My eyes went as round as the finger holes in Mrs. Richards’ teaching scissors.
“It’s a small muscle development skill,” she said.
I felt a small muscle in my cheek develop a tic.
“Prudy,” the absurdity of the situation called for the seriousness of using her first name, “If Holland still can’t use scissors by the time she graduates from high school we will worry then, okay?”
On her very first report card Holland earned a minus next to ‘controls scissors well’, which I thought was the unkindest cut of all because you see, I understood. Like Holland, I couldn’t control my scissors either. As hard as I tried, I always had raggedy edges (I still have raggedy edges). I clearly remember the day in third grade when my teacher tried to teach me how to make my rough edges smooth like everyone else’s. I struggled, but failed. It wouldn’t be until many years and countless lessons later that I would learn how to cut things out. The first to go was the idea that I had to be like everyone else. The second was that I had to conform to the world. I eventually learned to snip those things that don’t improve my life: jealousy and spitefulness, regret and bitterness, love of money, love of self, disrespect and discontent. I whittle my life with a blade honed on a stone made of a good memory of bad decisions.
Holland, you are a senior about to graduate from high school; you are ready to embark on your future. The world that lies before you is full of beautiful things, interesting people, exciting adventures, love and happiness. It is also loaded with mediocrity, cruelty, ugliness, and evil. For the remainder of your life all the decisions and choices that need to be made will be made by you. My prayer is that you cut out those things that do harm and to that end, Holland, my dear little girl, Mrs. Richards was right, you need scissor skills.
L.E. Hughes is a columnist, writer and owner of Diamond Corner B&B in Stratton, Maine. She welcomes your thoughts and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© June 2006, Lew-Ellyn Hughes. All Rights Reserved and Retained by the Author.