Santa Mouse

I’m gonna buy this book this year. I really can’t even remember what it’s about. I just remember what it did to me as a first grader.

We were told to pick a Christmas book to read to the kindergartners, each of us would read to a group of two or three. I remember wanting to pick a story that was challenging. Coming from a person who had trouble spelling “the” just a few months before, any book would have been challenging.

I had two younger girls in my group, they seemed nice. We settled into a quiet spot in the hallway outside their classroom. The basement of our Lincoln Elementary had green carpet that was supposed to resemble grass. We sat down, Indian style, and I felt excited about sharing a story with them. I didn’t have a problem speaking in front of people, I had a lot of siblings and never felt shy {as a child}.
I opened the book…
It was filled with words I didn’t understand.
I could barely read any of it.
I immediately felt embarrassed.

I would look up and see them exchanging glances at each other. I knew that they knew I wasn’t any good at it. They started to look around and finally my nice teacher came and saved me by reading the rest of it. The torture was over, in a way.

Even as a girl so small, I felt overwhelmed by failure. I didn’t even know that word yet. I just knew I hadn’t done something right. I knew I had to fix it. So every Tuesday, when we went to the library, I picked one book: Santa Mouse. I read it over & over until I knew it by memory. Around February, Mrs. Leonard noticed I always picked one book & was ready to go before the other kids. They would mill around the room, perusing colorful titles. I would wait patiently at the door.

“Santa Mouse?!” she laughed. “Why are you still reading this book? There are so many other books you could be reading!”

“I need to learn how to read it.”

“Let me guess, you have this book memorized by now, don’t you?”


“We are picking a new book. You aren’t allowed to check this one out anymore.”

I don’t know if she even remembered why I felt committed to read that story. I don’t know if she knew it was all I could do to make up for my mistake.
And if any kindergartners ever needed someone to read it in March, I’d have it down easily.

I listened. I borrowed other books. I became really good at reading. It was always by far {besides art} my strongest, most effortless class.
I didn’t take any English courses in college, I tested out of them in high school.

This story has been a source of encouragement to me as well as a pretty accurate lesson of how my mind has been built to work. When I perceive that I have “failed,” I go all out. I obsess with how I can make it right, what I can do differently for the next time. Lately there have been a few reasons I feel a sense of failure relating to the “business” of photography. I know that any time you venture into unknown territory without a map, there are going to be setbacks. I’m still learning. It’s not so familiar yet. Right now I’m still grasping the words, they look a little daunting on the pages. Soon I will have them down to memory…

Then nothing will be impossible.

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  • alli from hooray - October 23, 2009 - 1:52 pm

    Andrea, this is such a touching story. I read it yesterday in my google reader & was still thinking about it today.
    Ps. Those twins above are insanely adorable!

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