After a year in tiny Taylorville, our family moved to the big city of Decatur, Illinois. We had a house again which meant we had actual families with children to play with. My sister and I were both in school now so Mother was free to enjoy one of her many unhealthy hobbies: smoking. It seemed that she was always under a smoke cloud which made her all the more scary.
In those days, elementary students walked home for lunch, ate and returned for the afternoon classes. Many times, Mary would be shocked to see us at the door. It was as if she was not only disappointed to have her children home, but inconvenienced by having to throw together something for us to eat. Her culinary skills were limited and memorable only for often making us sick.
One particular day she threw together another gastronomic delight which was unrecognizable as food. My sister and I ate as much as we could stand and returned to school. Upon my arrival at my desk, I promptly threw up on John Foreman’s head. Mrs. Jones, my first grade teacher, told me to change into my paint shirt and head for home. Not exactly a compassionate educator.
I was scared to show up at home early because Mother was likely to blame me for getting sick. I dawdled on my way home but finally had to face the music of my mother. She was not only unhappy with me, she was mad at Mrs. Jones. Wondering why I could not have stayed at school, she reminded me that I belonged there and should not try to use such a lame excuse as vomiting to get out early. Another lesson learned – even when faced with throwing up on your neighbor, try to remain in class so as not to incur her wrath.