As Daddy backed the car out of our short driveway and headed it up the dirt road, Mama twisted around from the front seat to face me. “Tell me about school. Do you like it? Do you have friends? What’s Mrs. Bost like,” she asked.
We were going to school—my new school—for the first open house with my new teacher in my new classroom. I had attended Christ Lutheran’s church school for kindergarten, first, and second grades, but, now that we had moved far out of town, I had been moved to the county public school, Startown Elementary.
I didn’t really know how to answer her questions. I didn’t like this new school. It scared me. The classes were bigger, and the boys meaner. The only friends I had were girls, but I didn’t want to tell Mama and Daddy that. Mrs. Bost seemed okay, but I still got in trouble for talking too much. At Christ Lutheran, my teachers took care of my talking too much by punishing me in class and simply noting that “Alan talks too much” on my report card. That was all about to change.
I led Mama and Daddy into the building where my third-grade classroom and Mrs. Bost awaited, a new one-story structure built next to the imposing original three-story building that housed the principal’s office and upper grades of elementary school. We only went in there for a weekly visit to the library and for lunch in its basement. Mrs. Bost was busy talking with other parents when we entered, and Mama asked to see my desk.
All our desks had little folded tents made of cardstock with our names neatly written on them by Mrs. Bost. We weaved our way through the classroom, and I pointed out different students I knew, pretending to have more friends than I did. As we approached my desk and its little folded tent, I noticed that it looked different, and my heart began to pound in my chest. By the time I realized what was written there, it was too late—Mama and Daddy knew it was mine. The tent read “Motor Mouth,” neatly written in Mrs. Bost’s hand. I flushed from fear and embarrassment; Mama and Daddy flushed from anger. And, here was Mrs. Bost, walking across the room to explain how my talking too much disturbed her class. I was silent on the ride home, while Mama and Daddy discussed how to handle me and my Motor Mouth.
In my junior year of high school, I had occasion to call my mother at work one afternoon. She worked with several other women in a kind of secretarial and administrative pool above an auto parts store in town. Mary Jane, who answered the phone when I called, didn’t put me on hold. Instead she yelled across the upstairs office for my mother, “Jet Jaws! The phone’s for you!”
Jet Jaws! Mother of Motor Mouth. If only I had known.