"Do you remember Mrs. X?" he asked me on my last trip home.
I smiled. Do I remember Mrs. X? Junior high social studies. A classroom in the newly built addition. Yes, I remember Mrs. X.
I remember her dark, wavy hair, her ready smile, and her bubbly personality. It's interesting that this is the picture I have of Mrs. X because my one memory of junior high social studies is not a pleasant memory.
We were studying the countries of the world that year. At some point we were assigned the task of choosing a country for extensive research. I don't know how other students went about the process of choosing a country but I went to my bedroom where I had a cabinet my dad had made to house the many dolls in my doll collection.
A doll collection isn't all that unusual but this collection was not filled with porcelain or collector's dolls. Instead, it was full of dolls from around the world, carefully selected and lovingly donated by friends and family as they traveled to places far and near. I chose one of my favorites at the time, a doll from Guadeloupe.
Not good at taking tests, and finding that junior high math was beyond my numeric capabilities, writing was something that I enjoyed and at which I could succeed so I spent a significant amount of time on this assignment. I checked out numerous books from the library. I read and took laborious notes. And I wrote. Boy, did I write. On the due date, I turned my paper in with much pride.
A few days later it was returned, with a Big Fat C written across the last page. A C? I couldn't believe it. This would have been a welcome grade on a math assignment, but a writing assignment? And one in which I had spent so much time and effort? When I finally read her small print, I found that she had given me a C for plagiarism. I knew what plagiarism was. I also knew that I had not plagiarized at all. A strict rule follower every moment of my life, I had taken pains to make sure I did not plagiarize. In fact, if at any point during my writing I was afraid I had mistakenly plagiarized even a phrase, I would go back and change it, just to be sure. Yeah, I was that OCD about it. So to be accused of something that I would never even consider, and took great pains to avoid, left me speechless and confused.
For the first and only time in my life, my mom went to bat for me. I'm thankful that I wasn't raised in an airport with helicopter parents but I'm also thankful that my mom chose that instance to stand up for me. We went back to the library, checked out all the books I had used for my report, and took them to school for Mrs. X to determine if it was my own writing or if it had come directly from the book.
A few days later the verdict was in, an A for my effort but after all I had gone through to get there, it didn't come with pride or satisfaction in a job well done. I was embarrassed. I was frustrated and I was confused. I couldn't understand why someone would accuse me of such action and I felt like she saw some type of character flaw in me to assume that I would do so. It took me years to realize the compliment that Mrs. X inadvertently gave to me by grading that paper and accusing me of plagiarism.
And even though I've never been there, Guadeloupe is forever engraved on my memory.