Benson has the flu. The real flu. Not the fake crap some people get and claim it’s the flu. He’s currently laid up in bed with a crazy fever and our brown tabby, Funzer, curled up next to him.
Speaking of things that are painful…
When I was ten years old, my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Black, announced to the class that we would be celebrating Grandparents’ Day. Family would be invited. We’d hold it in the library. It’d be a whole carnival of a morning. It sounded like a grand time.
Until she got to the details.
“Everyone will be writing an essay about their grandparents, and we’ll choose some of you to read your essays aloud on Grandparents’ Day. And then some of you will help host the event. The rest of you will be performing a rap about your grandparents.”
Wait. What? Did she just say we were going to rap about grandparents?
Nope nope nope.
It’s not that I was a stick-in-the mud. I just had enough common sense and self-awareness (read: low self-esteem) to know that bustin’ rhymes about my grandpa in front of a crowd was a bad idea. This ain’t happening, lady, I thought.
There was one way out.
I glanced around the room, sizing up my competition. The week prior, the kid next to me had penciled “Ice Ice Babby” on his math folder, so I knew I at least had him beat. There was Cursha, the smartest girl in our entire school. No way they’d have her rapping. The teachers would likely set her up at a booth afterward to aide our elders in understanding their retirement benefits. Shaun – insanely intelligent, but in the science kind of way. He’s probably rich now, but atom and geometric knowledge were of zero advantage when it came to entertaining the 60+ crowd simply looking for a show. Then there were the in-betweens like me. Not the smartest, but still literate. I drummed up the memory of the writing award I’d won in first grade (that was earned because I straight-up plagiarized a movie I’d seen, but still) and harnessed all the confidence I had at my disposal.
I will write the best essay anyone has ever written about the elderly, I vowed.
I ended up penning a piece about my grandpa’s cornfields and how he always gave us Juicy Fruit pulled from the pocket of his coveralls. That sealed the deal: I would not rap.
For preparation for the big day, the writers edited their work while the music teacher came in and sat in a circle with the Vanilla Ice fan plus the leftover kids who are likely civil engineers or IT billionaires today. She clapped a rhythm and encouraged them to think about their grandparents. I added a line to my essay about how nice my grandma was.
“My grandfather took me to the fair,” one kid mumbled.
“Okay, that’s great! What else?” the music teacher asked, bobbing her head.
“I got a stuffed animal?” he offered.
Another girl chimed in. “They kind of embarrass me.”
I buried my head in my notebook.
Grandparents’ Day came. My grandpa and his wife sat in library seats more suitable for children and smiled while I read about how much I loved them.
And then the rappers entered. The music teacher pressed play on a tape player and a scratchy beat began. I cried inside for my classmates. They stood there limp and sad, forcing the words out. I still remember the first few lines:
“Grandparents: they’re so cool, even when they embarrass you.
Once we went to the fair and bought me a teddy-bear.”
I swear if this were on a reality show today someone would be turning in that music teacher for child abuse.
My peers sang with forlorn spirits. The grandparents smiled on the outside and questioned the government and state of society on the inside.
I wonder about the thought process that went into the creation of the Grandparents’ Day Celebration of 1990. Maybe it was an idea drummed up within the administration to prevent any of us from aspiring to become the next Ice Cube? This was 1990, so I guess it was valid concern.
Anyway, I think it worked. I looked up some of those kids on Facebook and from what I can tell they’re more successful than I am, and honestly, after what they went through, they deserve it. Besides, my lack of work in a laboratory or mahogany-clad office means I can walk down the hall and pour Benson some more apple juice.