Book Reports and Birth order
They say that birth order can have a strong affect on shaping personality and attitudes and in my personal case that seems to have been true. My sister was one year older than myself and a straight “A” student. She was small and frail, bright as a penny and she always had her homework done on time and in good order.
On the other hand I could usually be found doing my homework on the bathroom floor while I was getting dressed, on the morning of the day it was due. I’m not sure why I chose the bathroom to do my last minute homework, but I also broke a lot of glasses that way. I’d run into the bathroom and throw my clothes down, place the homework on the floor and sometimes my glasses as well, as I was trying to change and write at the same time. I often stepped on my glasses and about drove my poor dad wild, sometimes breaking 2 or 3 pairs of glasses in a month.
Being a year younger, I followed one year behind my sister in school and had most of the same classes and teachers. As I slouched into class in my old blue jean jacket, I could count on hearing the refrain , “Your Devon’s brother, aren’t you? Well, we‘ll be expecting big things from you!” I‘d usually mumble something in reply and slink over to a seat in the back row, where I would slump down in the chair. It didn’t take my teachers too long to figure out that my sister and I were more than slightly different in our approach to school in general and to homework in particular.
One time however, I decided to get ahead of the game and actually read a book and do a report on it, ahead of time. The report was on a book by Joseph Conrad, the title of which now escapes me. I’m not sure that I actually read the book itself, but I made good use of it’s cover jacket, and managed to bluff my way through. Partly because reading Conrad was a little precocious for a fifth grader, and partly because she was caught off guard by my preparedness, Mrs. Van Hook didn’t pick up on my ruse.
When the teacher recovered from her shock at seeing me actually turn something in on time, she decided to nominate me along with some others for a special county wide school board meeting where some top students were going to read their reports in front of some very important people.
We had one rehearsal in which I and four others read their reports, while a sixth student, Laurie, excused herself because she had forgotten to bring her work. She assured the teacher however that she would be ready by the day of the event. Laurie was a cute little Filipino girl, a tomboy and a great student, who almost never came to school unprepared, so no one was too concerned about her lack of preparation. I had a large crush on Laurie but was having a difficult time being reconciled to the fact that she always beat me at foursquare.
The big day finally arrived and we were all ushered into some auditorium and we’re asked to sit down in chairs placed in a semi-circle on the stage. I was to be the last person to do a report and Laurie the next to last. I remember being rather nonplused and bored with the whole thing until Laurie’s turn arrived and she sprang up and gave MY report, which she had somehow managed to memorize word for word after hearing it only once.
I was totally dumbfounded and at a loss for what to do when she finished and the entire auditorium quietly turned and looked at me expectantly. Honestly, I don’t remember what happened next, maybe I was in shock. Our teacher however, who was a very wise lady, some how managed to smooth things over with a minimum of fuss and get us out of the auditorium.
Maybe it was birth order, maybe it was the dazzling superiority of the females that surrounded me, but my brief career as a top student came crashing to an end. Perhaps I got just what I deserved for not actually reading the whole book, but it was a long time before I even thought about turning in a book report on time.