Let’s See If I Really Know My ABCs

by Kevin Burton

   One day my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Wolf asked me, “Kevin, do you know your ABCs?”

   “My good woman,” I replied, “if you are referring to the English aaal-phabet, then yes, I suppose I do know my A-B-Cs. May I be of some assistance to you in this matter?”

   It was a long time ago. It’s possible I don’t have the conversation completely correct. But this dialog fits my wife’s notion; that I was born with briefcase in hand, questioning the doctor, critiquing the skills of the obstetrics team.

   I started school in Bermuda, a British territory. That helped me I think. They were serious about education with us from day one. I don’t recall so much fun and games, but knowledge and exploration.

   I was reading and writing before I started school but they did teach me about long and short vowels, how the long vowels say their names.

   In kindergarten I learned to mind my Ps and Qs and zeds.

   Schools in my day used images children were familiar with to help them learn or review the 26 letters of the alphabet.

   A was always for apple, B was for ball, C was for cat and so on. That was fine with all of us rookie scholars. That was what we now call age-appropriate.  I haven’t been around elementary education much since I left it, but I’m sure that part is much the same.

   So now I’m all grown up (maybe) or at least old (definitely). I’ve seen the world beyond the limits of my visual acuity. I’ve tasted the sweetness of exceeding expectations, smelled the rancid odor of racism.

   I’ve felt the chill of an Alaskan winter, heard murderous intentions slurred in drunken, broken Spanish.

   I can tell you a thing or two about apples, balls and cats if that’s what you would like to hear.  But I’m thinking along different lines now. 

   I’ve kicked the 26 letters around a little bit and I think, perhaps, I could come up with more old-guy age-appropriate representations for them.  I think I know my ABCs even better now than I did when Mrs. Wolf asked (or didn’t ask) me that question. 

   Not that I’ve always handled everything adeptly, acted my age, covered myself in glory. At times I’ve been out to sea.  But I am at least able to spin some yarns and reflect. 

   So this I will do in a series of posts. I will try to give some idea of what the letters should better stand for, what comes to mind now, with five-plus decades of experience, gained after the day I got that kindergarten diploma.

   I promised Mrs. Wolf I would not talk in line. That rule I will stick to. But I may break some other rules along the way.  I might do the letters in order, might not.  I might do the posts all in a row or on certain days, or I might not.

   Certain letters could stand for more than one thing. Some posts could be serious, some not.  We’ll see. 

   I may ask some questions I can’t answer myself, hoping for your answers.

   And who exactly asked me to start handing out alleged wit and wisdom?  Nobody usually. Maybe that is the point? 

   In Mexico I used to see these gnarled old women sitting by the side of the road, selling Chiclets, little pieces of gum.  They sat there most of the day through most of the weather good and bad.  They had to make eye contact to make a sale.

   “Joven” they would call me, which means young, which I was then. Or “Guero” fair/light one, which I still am. 

  They sat there day in and day out watching, listening. They knew everything that was going on, but they were the last ones most people would talk to or ask anything.

   Does that make sense?

   I used to talk to them.

   I’m marginalized just as those old women were because I am legally blind.  My opinion is mostly dismissed if it is ever taken in at all.  This is not even a complaint of mine anymore. I no longer care.  It’s just the way it is and always will be.

   But I have a blog, some well-earned perspective and I have some time. 

   If you want me to switch off of this idea and just write non-stop fantasy football, let me know. Until then I’ll go with this. 

   We’ll get started soon, perhaps next week.

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