When I was in the 6th grade my teacher was explaining something to us and paused because she was struggling to think of the correct term for something and said, "oohh, what is that word?? The name of someone who's an expert on birds." I somewhat quietly yet confidently spoke up,
"Why, that would be an ornithologist."
My teacher was exceedingly impressed and I never told anyone that it was because I had played Clue the night before and was studying Mrs. Peacock's card.
One of my favorite children's books is Chickens Aren't the Only Ones. It talks about all the different kinds of animals that lay eggs with the most beautiful illustrations in a sort of free-flowing (but not too free) poetry form. Such delightful rhythm and meter. Even as I read it as a child, I knew I was learning a lot. And I had a very poignant feeling that someway, somehow, the information in this book was going to be useful to me one day. A feeling? Or a premonition.
Well then I grew up and went to college. I took a class called Appreciation of Nature, which I loved. My teacher asked a question and what i did was kind of embarrassing and super nerdy but I just couldn't help myself. Because I KNEW I'd use the information one day and the moment had come! And i was ready. We were learning about different kinds of animals, possibly birds, when my teacher said "Now, there are two mammals that lay eggs..." And faster than you can say "Hey, Hermione" my hand shot up. I may have waved it around. Like a 4th grader I may have said, "oooh, oooh! I know what they are!!" This was my moment! My pivotal moment. It had finally come. And I declared to all the universe, trying to be cool but probably failing,
"The spiny anteater and the duck-billed platypus!!!"
My collegiate career was satisfied in a single moment. Now, no one really likes the smart kid. We kind of want to punch them in the face from time to time (Hermione). But I'm not a know-it-all. I don't try to be. I don't even want to be. I just knew the answer to something pretty random! I'm hoping my classmates understood that was what was happening for me then instead of wanting to give me a wedgie and knock my books out of my hands. And let me just say, there have actually been many other instances where i recalled info from that book. I don't know why. Usually my brain is an academic sieve, i have such a hard time with retention (sean is the opposite). But not with this book. I really love it. Go, buy it today and give it to your kids/nieces/nephews for Easter. Hey, that's a great idea. I think i'll take my own advice.
Then, in this same class, and it must have been close to the same time... actually, now that i think about it, this event probably preceded the last one. Oh well. My teacher used to randomly call on people by asking if there was anyone named _______ in the room. I was victim to this a couple of times. Obviously there was going to be more than one Jennifer in the class yet i was the one chosen. I wonder why? Maybe the other Jennifers were absent those days. What are the odds of that, though. And where were they? And why wasn't I invited?! I'm getting off track. Anyway, one of these times, the teacher had had us write down in our nature appreciation journals (love) an organism we just hated. I had written down "earwig." And I was the Jennifer to explain why I'd selected mine. We then had to write a paper on it, which was just delightful. Love this teacher, whatever his name was.
The other time he had me come down to the board with him and he had everyone write down their guess of how many different species of birds there were in the world. He asked me what my guess was and I said, "I'm not sure. It's either 1800 or 8,000. I watched The Birds last night and she said it but i can't remember! It has an 8 in it though... right?" Just a tad bemused, he said "It's 8,000."
Also, can we all just agree that bemused should mean "bewildered and confused while also a little amused?" Wait. Wait just a second. I just saw what I did there. BEwildered + conFUSED??? = bemused!!! Nevermind! Nevermind. It's already a good word. I wish i could throw in that 3rd element (amused) but i don't know if i can now, in good conscience. It's fine the way it is. I'm sorry, words. I take it back. good one. back to the story.
So as you can imagine, these have been pretty significant moments for me. And there's one more that stands out as a fond memory. My dad used to teach at BYU and we would meet once a week for lunch somewhere. It was great. Good family time (usually other sibs were there as well). I never officially took his class but I sat in on it many times and it was very enjoyable. One day at lunch it was just me and Dad. Maybe i was feeling extra dumb that day and needed a pick-me-up but somehow we concocted a plan to stage me being the Smart Kid in his class. ha ha. It sounds kind of sad and pathetic but who among us wouldn't do this, if given the opportunity? With a little forethought and planning, that one chance to be the Smart Kid. Come on. So we did it. He told me his lesson plan for class that day and a question he would ask with the accompanying answer, comprising of three elements. I rehearsed it a few times, we had a good laugh, and later on in class, we were in position. I never had any notes or textbooks out (since i was daughter-auditing. Dauditing.) and so i just sat with nothing, like I was a genius who had all the answers but without a care in the world. The moment came, and trying not to sound terribly snotty, I answered. I actually could only think of two of the three things but i feel that added to the false authenticity of my genius. "Oh, that would be ________, ________... and I think there's a third one but I can't remember what it is." See? Not so hateable. It was perfect. Many heads turned and I casually sat in my chair and the feeling was nice. I'm not ashamed. The feeling was nice.
Thus concludes this essay. Lessons learned that I continue to believe and abide by to this day:
1. Children's books are all you ever need in life.
2. It pays to watch your Hitchcock.
3. You can learn a lot from games. Clue is an exceptional one.
4. It's helpful if your dad is the best.