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Cookie's Rule

Cookie's Rule

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A rule breaker thinks she rules.
A rule breaker thinks she rules.

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Published by: Dorothy-Jean (Dody) Chapman on Jul 31, 2011
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07/31/2011

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COOKIE’S RULE
by Dorothy-Jean (Dody) Christian Chapman The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I learned thisgeometry rule early in life, and I began to practice it a lot in kindergarten. Oh, I didnot draw lines with a ruler and crayons or one of those oversized pencils on mynewsprint paper. Nor did I spout off any proofs of my knowledge and use of thisrule. I simply lived the rule every day, whether a school day or not. The rule servedme well; not my clothes, but me. My mama always wondered why my clothes boreswaths of dust or mud right down the center front. Even my knees and red sneakertoes had remnants of the dirt. Mama just said children had to eat a peck of dirtbefore they reached adulthood. I was not eating dirt, I was biting the dust!At age eight, when walking across town to the library, I took a direct line of approach trespassing through neighbor’s yards, over fences, gardens, and underporches. Going to the grocery store for Mama meant traveling past some meandogs, but I always tossed them some of my whole wheat bread crusts with just awhiff of peanut butter to quell the lonely beasts. They eventually expected myarrival and did not bark or gnash their teeth in hopes of the few crumbs they knew Icarried. Now the rooster in one person’s yard was another story. That noisy guyalways tried to flop me, so I removed my jack-shirt and fended him off like a bullfighter to avoid his spurs and feathers. He did get me once, though; but I did notblame him. I was in his yard. So I told everyone the scratches came from a treethat attacked me.My direct journey to and from school every day presented only two obstacles: The border fence of the junior high school field and the back fence of theelementary school yard. The junior high fence was an easy to climb, chain linkfence. How convenient for my daddy to buy a house which bordered the junior highschool. A quick run across the junior high fields brought me to a town street, afriend’s yard, and then the elementary boundary fence. All I had to do each daywas shimmy under the fence on my belly, and there I was. No crowds to slow medown along the paths on the sides of the road leading to the front of the elementaryschool. I slithered under that back fence and sported dust each day for nearly fiveyears. Nothing was ever discussed about the state of my clothes during parent-teacher conferences. Perhaps my teachers expected dirty clothes because of mytendency to perform acrobatics, especially handstands and front rollovers, on thepacked dirt playground. I guess I had no modesty in those first few years. As I
 
aged I began to wear shorts under my dresses so my underwear would not showwhen I was upside down.Somebody, probably my fourth grade teacher (that was my worst year),reported me to the office in the middle of my fifth grade year. If it was my formerteacher, she must have looked out her classroom windows and spotted me racingtoward the buildings, trying to avoid detection by skirting the few trees along thefence line on the way to the front of the building complex. I knew I was breakingthe school rules by following my own rule, otherwise I would not have been sosecretive about going to the front of the school. But I had outwitted everybody forfive years; the five most formative years of my education. I was the queen of thecovert!During these five years, I had trespassed hundreds of times. In church Iprayed for God to forgive me my trespasses. After all, the Lord’s Prayer spokedirectly to me. And I felt somewhat redeemed when I prayed in this manner. But athome, in the darkness of the bedroom I shared with my baby sister, I felt that I wassimultaneously getting away with something and also being forgiven when I talkedwith God. Now, that created a real conflict in my frontal lobes, the seat of reasonand executive function. Art and geometry provided a simple solution to my logisticsquestions, but school rules tried mightily to bind me to a different “plane.” Nowthat I had been caught, supposedly by my fourth grade teacher, how would I handlemyself? I had learned to be the maven of mavericks. Getting caught stung, but Idecided to play the school game………….for a while.I played the game, the on-the-path-beside-the-road-round-about-route-to-school game, for about two months. I perceived no one was looking, so I duckedover and under fences again for one week before I was brought down by theprincipal who met me at the trees on the way to the front of the school. (Do youthink the dusty streak down my front gave me away for one week?) Needless tosay, I was assigned extra class work after school. I played by the rules again fortwo weeks before going the direct route again. This time, my parents angrilyconfronted me about a phone call they received from my principal about what I haddone. Apparently, I was to stay after school with my principal for a special afterschool session including my teacher and some other kids. I thought if it involvedschool work, it would be a cinch. I was the fox and the Gingerbread Girl all rolled upin one!
 
Since I was to stay after school on the appointed day in my own classroom, Iwaited with my fifth grade teacher rather sheepishly. Later, three sixth gradetoughs showed up and took seats on the far side of the room. These guys wereknown for stealing, fighting, and just plain being dumb. I was not like them! Whywere we all together this afternoon when I could have been ducking under theschool yard fence? Then the principal arrived. He began by making us stand up inthe front of the roomand state why we thought we were meeting after school. One of the boys waspicked to talk first. He had stolen pencils from his teacher. Then it was my turn. Iplayed the game and told the truth. I had no idea where this session was going.After each of us had confessed to our offenses, the principal announced that wewould be writing several letters to tell of our crimes and indiscretions, and offeringour deepest apologies. One letter would go to our local school board. (Well, thatwas OK, I did not know them). One letter would go to our parents. (Well, that wouldearn me a sound spanking; scary). Another letter would go to whomever we hadoffended. And the last letter would be framed and hung in the main school hallwayfor all teachers and students to read. That scared me and embarrassed me beforethe letter was even written. I felt prickles of goose bumps rise up on my arms, neckand head. I was mortified. The fox had bitten me and continued to chew royallyinto my backside. That was not all. Our principal went on to instruct us to create a rough draftin pencil first. That rough draft would be completed to his and my teacher’ssatisfaction. We would all stay after school until the last kid completed a decentpenciled rough draft in correct letter form, including every infraction, every name of those institutions or adults or other kids who had been harmed, a sincere apology,and a promise to follow the school rules. We were also to ask forgiveness of God.When all drafts were complete, we were then to write the three or more letters weowed in pen, in cursive, and with no mistakes. Mistakes meant rewriting. My“Gingerbread Girl” was being chomped on piece by piece. I felt crumby.After five years of breaking rules, I had finally come to the fence. I neitherwent over nor under. I adopted a Gold Standard. Point “A” to point “B” only

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