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Lost Journal: Get Well Cards Expose Dark Side of Second Grade

Mar 272012
 
 By , March 27, 2012

By Tim Mollen

Journal entry: October 1, 1976 (age 7)

Once word of my broken arm reached the second-grade classroom at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary, the goodwill machine lurched into action.  I’ve only been home a few days, but today I got a nice surprise in the mail.  A big manila envelope labeled “Timmy Mollen” arrived, filled with handmade get well cards from my classmates.  I know the whole thing was orchestrated by our wonderful teacher, Sister Katharine Earley, who is always thoughtful and kind.  But it’s still nice to know my classmates are thinking about me.

What’s not nice is seeing dozens of “portraits” of me that show what my classmates think I look like.  The consensus seems to be that I resemble Howdy Doody, as re-imagined by Salvador Dali.  My hair is an unruly red thatch, my freckles are pockmarks, and my bulging eyes are barely covered by oddly shaped glasses.  Even artistically gifted kids in the class, such as Matt Tabeek and Bridget Gillespie, drew me as some kind of Irish government science experiment gone horribly wrong.

Many of my classmates chose to draw pictures of houses – my house, their house or random houses.  From the tone of their artwork, I’m guessing that our art teacher, Mrs. Juanita Crabb, must have covered “disturbing domestic imagery” this week.  Pat O’Neil started to draw a house, then changed his mind and made the house into my face.  The ungodly hybrid has a slanted roof with red hair growing on it, and a neck full of windows and doors.

Another recurring image in the cards is me falling out of my bunk bed.  My peers collectively assumed that nothing would cheer me up more than to relive the exact moment when my arm shattered beneath me.  Some embellished the scene with extra touches of pathos.  Eve Tokos and Bobby Hill both depicted me as screaming “Help!” on the way down.  Imagining me as conscious of my impending doom adds a note of fatalism that I would have thought beyond the intellect of kids our age.

Julie Crossfield, meanwhile, took the creepiness to even lower depths with her drawings, which alternately show me crying “No!” as I’m being strapped to a gurney by a team of goons, and me screaming for help in an empty hospital room.  Above the scene sits an angry sun, frowning down on my sorry lot.

Others of my classmates were more kind, urging me to “ples git better son.”  Julie Van Atta charitably referred to me by the nickname I had recently tried to give myself:  “Dear Super Tim, I’m very sorry you broke your arm.”  My friend Mark Murphy included a riddle:  “How many sides does a baseball have?”  The following page was blank, which I took as encouragement to come back to school and ask him for the answer.  Elizabeth Mahoney took a more direct approach: “Get well or else you will have two broken arms.”

If my class is indicative of my generation, the Hallmark Corporation may be facing a serious talent shortage in a couple of decades.

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Buy your copy of "Lost Journal - the Book" at www.timmollen.com. Each Lost Journal column is a journal entry written in retrospect. In other words, Mollen chooses a different day from his past, and writes about it as though it were today. The date may be last week, Halloween 1980, or the day he was born (May 4, 1969). Some of you may be asking, “But how would he have been able to write a journal entry on the day he was born?” To you he says: “Lighten up. It’s a humor column.” Mollen is a nationally syndicated columnist and actor, and he is available as a speaker on writing and humor.
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