The Calculator

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This coming week many young people will be heading back to school. The beginning of a new educational year. Their parents have been busy getting school supplies, school clothes, and other necessary items for their children.

I remember always looking forward to returning to school. I love learning. I enjoyed the classroom where I excelled. The classroom was a place where I could be myself, not worry about upsetting my mother. I may not do things right at home for my mother, but in school I was free from her constant disapproval. My father was always proud of my academic achievements.

I did not have many friends in school, actually only one or two the entire time in high school, and they graduated before I did. My last two years of high school, I was alone during lunch time. But it did not matter if I had friends or not, I had books, knowledge and learning.

The purchase of school clothes was simple, three pants, four shirts, undergarment, and a package of socks. When I started junior high, a P.E. uniform was required. These clothes had to last all year long. I would not get any other clothes until the following school year, with the exception of Christmas. At Christmas we all got a new package of socks, and if I was blessed a new shirt.

School supplies were the bare minimum for the year. The first day of school was just a pencil and notebook. I was to write down all the required notebooks and supplies from each class. The following weekend we would go shopping for the supplies. I remember my sophomore year, I was required to have a certain calculator to use in chemistry and geometry. My mother said “no, that is too expensive.” (Later I learned this was a lie.) So, for chemistry and geometry, I took scratch paper from home to solve complex mathematical equations with a pencil and my mind. Just before Christmas, I received a letter from my chemistry teacher to give to my parents. All school correspondence to my parents was seen first by my father. The letter stated that I need the calculator for class, it was required. I was called into the room my father used as a home office, door closed with my father and mother inside.

Now what is a child supposed to do? My father would not tolerate any untruth from me, and I am a terrible liar and poker player. My mother would be mad at me if I told the truth. I also knew that the truth would cause an argument between my parents. My father asked the question I knew was going to be said, “Why did you not tell us you needed this calculator?” Looking at the ground, not daring to look at either parent, I replied my mother’s words that it was too expensive. “How much does it cost?” my father asked. Keeping my eyes staring at the floor I replied with the cost. My father dismissed me, after I closed the door the argument began. That Christmas, in my stocking was the calculator, the only gift I received that Christmas.

Home was a difficult place. While I got along great with my father, I was always in turmoil with my mother. School was the place to get away from my mother.

Every year when school is beginning to start and I see children and parents purchasing school supplies, this memory comes forward. Yes, I became very good at chemical equations rounding the answer to five places behind the decimal. I was able to do the calculations as fast as the older students with their calculators. I used a lot of scratch paper, a forest worth. And every year, as I watch children and parents get school supplies, I hope a child does not have to go through what I did for a calculator.

amtolle

7 thoughts on “The Calculator”

    1. Before getting the calculator, I was a fast as 10% of the chemistry class who had calculators. After getting a calculator, I was the fastest. As part of the classroom lesson, there was a competition on chemical equations every Thursday. An equation was put on the board, the teacher would say start, and the first one finished with the correct answer received points that led to monthly awards. I am still good at math without a calculator…lol.

      Liked by 1 person

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