Our sixth grade teacher was a goofy guy with an ebullient personality so Macy-Thanksgiving-Day-parade big that it simply filled the room, a whirling dervish of a teacher, who once upon a time strolled out on the newly black-topped basketball courts west of the school and hit a shot from half court that left all of us almost eternally impressed.
Funny—it was a Christian school, and I’m sure Mr. Eggebeen told us story after story from the Bible, likely even offered a testimony or two, but I don’t remember any of that. What I know is that once he hit that half-court shot, for the rest of the year, he could do no wrong.
I’m sure I was hardly saintly, but once upon a time, during the last hour of the day—and week, on Friday during art class, when things were chaotic anyway, I painted a halo and a beard on the kid on the safety poster that was taped up on the door to our sixth grade room, some little squatty kid like Dennis the Menace, adorned with the kind of police belt we used to wear to indicate our authority to help the little kids across the streets.
Strangely enough, I don’t remember Mr. Eggebeen being all that angry, perhaps because he didn’t make a federal case out of it in class, in front of the other kids. I didn’t get cited in any kind of public fashion that I remember. But what I won’t forget is that the next report card I lugged home featured a big fat D in the box on Deportment, which is to say, of course, “behavior.”
My parents were aghast, purely aghast. They did some detective work, as all parents would have back then, probably went to the teacher themselves, although I don’t remember them visiting.
Yet, somehow, I also remember that they weren’t as angry as he must have been. By that time in my life, they were very much aware they hadn’t raised a sinless child, so a halo and goatee on a cartoon kid on a poster maybe didn’t constitute something close to the unforgiveable sin.
And me?--I still feel today somehow as if that grade was legitimate. Why? I can think of only one reason: Eggebeen was an excellent teacher who way back when hit a shot from half court and, even when he wasn’t trying, lit up our lives.
Amazingly, even then, I wasn’t mad. Honestly, I’m sure I didn’t mean to deface anything or anyone. It wasn’t a mean thing to do, a little sporty even. No matter, I had the feeling that somehow I’d earned that big fat D.