Big Heroes – Little People

Second grade was a very special year for me. It was in second grade that we really started to develop close friendships and tell secrets. It was kind of exciting to find out something about yourself that your parents didn’t know.

Like falling into the swamp on the way to school. That was the day my second grade teacher, Mrs. Bjorklund became my hero. She never told anyone what happened. She could have taken us to the principal and ratted us out to our parents, but she didn’t. I thought she was wonderful, that she was one of us.

It was a warm Friday afternoon in May. Twenty second graders were all fidgeting at their desks, nervously glancing at the clock. Mrs. Bjorklund always made us sing after 3:00 on Fridays. She was not foolish enough to try to teach little children who look anxiously at the long hand of the clock something to pass the minutes. Only thirty minutes to go.

We were singing my favorite second grade song “Carmelita”. She said: “Oh, sing your song, Carmelita, please, Carmelita, please, sing me your song. It won’t be long Carmelita, please, Carmelita, please, sing me your song.” clop” That was a great song, I especially loved the clip clop part.

Mrs. Bjorklund was leading us in song when Mr. Katon poked his head in the door. He was our manager. He was a very good man. He stuck his head out to wish us a good weekend every Friday. He was friendly, he had a big smile and I think he was very tall. I think he was tall, I don’t know because I was seven years old, they all seemed tall to me.

He gave us a smile as we sang and went to close the door but slammed it shut. We had the windows open, so the air pressure caught him off guard. He was fine, however, we didn’t miss a beat singing.

As the minutes ticked by, we were all nervous and excited. When you grow up in Lake Superior, warm spring days are a big deal. In fact, you can run and play and not worry about the cold. It was perfect weather for games of hopscotch or Chinese jumping rope. We loved playing those games when we were kids. Those were the video games of my youth. You couldn’t do it inside or alone.

So it was 3:25, Mrs. Bjorklund gave us the go-ahead to put away our books and tidy up our desks so they would be neat and tidy for Monday. We were all excited. We couldn’t wait to be released. It was like opening the gate of a ranch when all the cattle run like crazy.

Another great thing about second grade, no homework. Our task was to help in the house. Clean the chandelier with my older sister, or sweep. I was too young to vacuum.

Finally, the last ten seconds. I watch the forced movement of the long hand of the clock as it ticks off the seconds. Then the row of bells. Thank God we all got up and went to the door.

Why didn’t the door open? I heard someone say the door was stuck. We were all hanging around and some of the kids started to look worried. Mrs. Bjorklund came to see what was going on, she told us to back up so she could open the door.

He turned the knob, nothing happened. Then she pushed the door open. Nothing happened. She shook the door, nothing happened.

The children were getting angrier and angrier. A little boy, the director’s son was crying. He said that he was going to be late for a date with Kerri T. I know there were only seven of us, but we were very sophisticated. He was going to meet her on the slide and they were going to play on the merry-go-round. Very sophisticated.

Mrs. Bjorklund returned to the front of the room and sat down at her desk. She was thinking of a way to save us. We all sat back in our seats, looking at her. We knew that she could think of something, she was an adult. She could save us.

She had a thought. We all wrote notes and put them under the door. Someone would see the notes, pick them up, and save us.

So we feverishly wrote notes, asking for help. We were stuck and needed help. We were a bit dramatic. I mean, we were on the first floor, with tons of windows, and we had running water. Wait, we didn’t have a bathroom. Now that is a problem. We were only seven years old, we didn’t have much time before someone had to go.

So we shove the notes under the door and go out into the hallway and wait. We waited and waited, but no one came. That got us thinking. Who were we waiting for? The doorbell had rung 10 minutes ago on a hot Friday afternoon. The buses were gone and it seemed like everyone else was gone too.

A couple more kids were starting to cry and the rest of us were getting anxious. We had been waiting all week for Friday night and were allowed to stay a little later due to the warm weather. We had to get home, there was hopscotch to jump and Barbies to play with, bikes to ride. We were all busy that night, we needed to get out of there. I’m sure no one else noticed this, but really we were little adults with big plans. Friday night, playing hopscotch, was our social calendar and it was time to go.

Mrs. Bjorklund was thinking back to her desk. She then she started looking out the windows. That was it!!! We’d send someone out the window. We were on the first floor. The windows opened, so it had to be someone small to get through the hole. Who could it be????

We had a volunteer, Timmy Fleck. Timmy came from a large family. All the children looked alike. Small, skinny, with freckles and a mane of red hair. He had a feeling Timmy might have gotten out through these kinds of windows sooner. He was that kind of kid, always living on the edge.

In art class one day, we were all wearing our art smocks (our dad’s old shirt inside out), our art teacher gave each of us a lump of charcoal. We were supposed to draw a picture of a house. So while we were all trying to do this, Timmy raised his hand to go to the boy’s room.

He went in there and drew a beard, mustache and eyebrows with the charcoal. Then she went back to class. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at school before, or since. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen a seven year old do. He got into trouble.

So when he offered to climb out the window, neither of us were surprised.

He climbed onto the windowsills and Mrs Bjorklund pulled him out the window, grabbed him by the ankles and started pushing him. There was only one problem. He didn’t fit.

Looks like Timmy had some kind of growth spurt in second grade. I hadn’t really noticed before, but he was getting bigger. Despite this, he was still the smallest child in the class.

Mrs. Bjorklund dragged him inside. Two or three other children were crying.

We were never going out. we would die there. Our parents would get together and look for us. When our poor inert bodies were finally discovered, it would be too late. The whole town would be sad. There would not be a church big enough to house all the grieving families.

Everyone would be very sad and would sing our favorite song. Yes, they would learn “Carmelita”. Maybe they’d even get a donkey to pull the coffin cart. Maybe the donkey could even walk around with a merry clip clop. it was so sad

Years from now, children will admire the example we set. We died in school, learning things and we would be remembered for it.

Boy, was I dramatic at seven.

Then I heard a knock!! At the door, someone was knocking!! We all cheer!!! It was Mr. Katon, he was there, he would save us. Mrs. Bjorklund ran to the door and told her that it was stuck and that she couldn’t open it.

Mr. Katon told her to stay away from the door and to make all the children go back to the windows. So we all crowded around the windows. This was so exciting, like an episode of Lassie when the dad finally follows Lassie to rescue the little boy.

Mr. Katon took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. Shoulder down, he ran to the door and pounded on it with all his might. He opened up.

We all cheer and cheer. We are saved!! Mr. Katon saved us. We were all smiling and happy. This was the best day of my life. It was as if a superhero had saved us. He saved us from death, he saved us from getting in trouble for missing dinner, he saved us to grow up and get married and have children and tell them the powerful story of how we look death in the face and laugh.

OK, I’m still being dramatic.

Looking back on that day it seems so much fun now. It sure wasn’t funny when it happened. I still get scared. It’s funny, being scared now doesn’t feel any different than being scared then. I’m just afraid of different things now. I’m afraid AA is a lot like being locked in a classroom on a Friday after noon. I have so many things to do, I’m in a hurry to get out, I want and need to go see my friends, but just like second grade, the door is closed.

Mr. Katon is not going to come and slam the door on me this time. I need to do that myself. If little Timmy Fleck can volunteer to climb out that window and be held by his ankles on the ground, surely I can get out there and face whatever is in there.

Heroes come in all sizes, from the great Mr. Katon to the little Timmy Fleck, they are all heroes in our lives. Our greatest hero is the one we all carry inside. The little voice that says “I’m still here, you can do anything if you try.”

So, what are you waiting for? It’s Friday afternoon, the weather is nice, go for um!!!

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