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.”
“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.
Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub Poetics