Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Call Me Butch

image borrowed from flickr.com

Call Me Butch

“If I’m going to tell a real story, then I’m gonna
start with my name.”--Kendrick Lamarr.

Growing up in Seattle, I attended ten elementary schools in six
years; kind of amazed that most of them were built the same--three
stories, wide stairs, hall lockers, smelling of hardwood floors, strong
cleaners, wax, chalk, eraser dust, urinal soap, lunchroom tuna casserole
& macaroni slathered in cheese, rubber balls, & baseball mitts.

Before I made it through sixth grade, my young mother had married twice
more--the first husband was divorced before my first day in kindergarten
in 1949. My last stepfather had a vicious temper, so he quit a lot of jobs,
& we moved multiple times, pushing me into permanent outsider status--
always the new kid, forcing/molding/allowing me to rapidly develop into
a type-A overachiever, having to assert myself intellectually, emotionally,
& physically to be as facile with my fists as I was with my quips & homework.

I was the one in
the first row, my hand in the 
air, first with answers.

Early on that first day 
           in the first school
        with the first teacher, I had
                my first life lesson, as I quickly learned to become
        my own advocate, being subjected to something strange
                labeled as Roll Call.

Arnold Bryden”, the lady teacher sang out.
I just sat there staring out the window at a dog pissing on a bike.
She repeated that odd name.
I remained unresponsive.
She bustled up to my tiny desk, as I was
checking out the odd doodles carved into it.
“Why are you not answering to your name?”
I looked up at her with angry eyes.
“That’s not my name.”
“Of course it is, young man, it’s right here on my roll card,
Arnold Glenn Bryden.”
“My name is Butch--call me Butch.”
“No, your first name is Arnold. Butch is just your nick-name.”
“My what?”
“Your nick-name, what your family calls you.”
“That’s cuz my name is Butch.”
“No, you must learn that we do not use nick-names in school.
I will call you Arnold, because that is your proper name.”
After a moment of contemplation I said,
“Arnold is a dumb name, I don’t like it. My Mom will be mad at you
too, cuz Arnold is my Dad, but he was mean to us, & he is gone 
now, so just call me Butch.”
“OK,” she said, pondering the situation,
“Then what about Glenn, your middle name?”
“Yes, Glenn--that’s a fine name.”
“OK, you can call me Glenn. I like that name.”

It is hard to know
who you are at five years old,
but somehow, I did. 

Glenn Buttkus


Victoria said...

Wow, what a story, Glenn. In this short account you give us a glimpse of just who you are. So glad you stood up to her, and that she had enough sensitivity to "get it." The form lends itself so well to the topic, doesn't it?

X said...

Just think, if that would not have happened I would not know you as Glenn. Interesting. In school nowadays we ask the student what they want to be called. It is so funny, I had a student last year that said her name was Skyler. Everyone on campus called her Skyler. First time I called home, mom was thoroughly confused as she did not have a daughter named Skyler.

Ugh on moving so much, hard for a student to feel settled when they move around that much. Hard to find the rhythm of school.

Claudia said...

oh it is very cool that she was sensitive enough to deal so wisely with that situation... tough on moving so often and always have to start again with friendships and all.. that def. can be difficult but seems you managed well in dealing with it

brudberg said...

Ouch.. imaging you had been Arnold.. disaster.. i have some second names I'm glad I was never called.. and I think Glenn works perfect. Great you could stand up to the teacher, and that she finally understood and came with the compromise,

Glenn Buttkus said...

Arnold Glenn "Butch" Bryden became Glenn Arnold Buttkus by 7th grade, so my military & college paperwork is accurate & consistent, but that first passport was tough to procure, since my parents were already deceased & the legal change of name form was lost or misplaced--but that's a tale for another prompt. Very few people still call me Butch.

Marina Sofia said...

(whispers) I think Glenn suits you better than Butch - was that from Butch Cassidy, by the way?
Sounds like a tough few years for you. But your way of choosing to respond to things is interesting - wanting to prove yourself in all respects, rather than disengaging. A very affecting and eloquent story.
I switched languages when I moved from kindergarten to school, and I barely understood a word of English, but I arrived home very proud after my first day, saying that I had understood a whole sentence that my teacher had said to me. What was the sentence? 'Please sit at your desk.'

Mary said...

Glenn, that is a fascinating tale. You were a wise boy to figure out who you were at a young age! Good for you for being strong enough to insist that you did not want to be called by the other name. Ha, I have had those kids in the front row with their hands waving, letting me know the answers; so indeed I can kind of picture the kind of kid YOU were. I really liked this bit of your life, Glenn. (And the name 'Glenn' definitely does suit you.)

Gabriella said...

Wonderful! This is quite a story, Glenn! Your beginning with a setting most of us can relate to is very efficient. We recognize the place, we are one of these students at the back of the class and we watch you as you skirmish with the teacher.

Blogoratti said...

What a wonderful tale indeed, really fascinating. Thanks for sharing that. Greetings!

Grace said...

Wonderfully narrated Glenn as I had forgotten about the roll call ~ I think the name Glenn suits you ~ I like the blending of the prose with the tercet, specially the ending ~ Good for you to stand up to the teacher ~

Anonymous said...

An incredible story and your vision and sharing it with us all is a blessing.

I love this poem. I like Butch...but I also love the name Glenn.

Excellent my friend.

P.S Check out my new poem I posted up Yesterday...You will like the title and its a sci-fi poem.


Truedessa said...

Wow - what an intriguing story - I am so glad you stood your ground and you had just cause to do so. You were lucky the teacher "got it" and found a name that you felt comfortable with. I like Glenn myself it feels right...-Have a good night!

Imperfectly_His said...

Speechless on how your mind could create this! Great!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wow, Glenn, it's a wonder we get out of childhood alive. Bravo for that five year old who already knew who he was, who became that straight A student, when the story could have been so different. This is a fantastic story, worthy of a memoir, my friend......really.

lynn__ said...

You knew who you were, yes, and dared to confirm yourself! Brought back memories of my classmate named, "Butch" :)

Sabio Lantz said...

I too was named after my father -- who was named after his, and he after his -- back 5 or 6 folks.
I broke the link and changed my name legally when I was in my late 20s.
Pissed off the old man.
But damn it, I ain't his tree to piss on!

Good poem, Butch.

Ava Hypatia said...

Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your work, and learning about the certain memories of a five year old child in a very adult situation.

Sumana Roy said...

Oh it's sad and quite devastating to be "always the new kid," in a school...you were a determined fellow no doubt and also lucky to have a wise teacher...my heart goes out to the little five year old who knew who he was...a very heartfelt piece Glen...

Kate Mia said...

Ah.. yes.. a scholar.. a fighter..
but most importantly
a diplomat
at age 5..:)

Kathy Reed said...

Yes, your character had already taken shape for you to have such a polite and engaging conversation with your teacher. Your mother gave you invaluable tools. I can just imagine how many would be too shy or lack the confidence to say it like it is without trepidation.

Wolfsrosebud said...

... that poor kid... the teacher too... i once scolded a student for not memorizing work... with sad eyes he looked at me and said his mom and dad were going through a divorce and grand parents picked him up at 5 am... he was tired... plus he was trying to take care of his two younger brothers... kids are put through so much.

ayala said...

A cool post...and Glenn suits you.

Abhra Pal said...

I see - so that is the history behind your name. Very interesting. I remembered some of the similar funny incidents at school.

However, it is sad that you moved from one school to another and every time you felt like an outsider. I know how that hurts.

grapeling said...

isn't it strange how names can leave a wider welt than any belt? ~