I try not to use the F-Word. I try not to even think about the F-Word, for fear it will slip out of my somewhat undisciplined lips.
My Number-3-Child used the F-Word in church a while back and every muscle in my body stiffened. I wasn’t sure if I should pretend to not know the child and simply move to another pew, or immediately lay prostrate on the floor to make myself a smaller target for the lightning that was sure to come.
I relaxed a little when a retired teacher leaned forward from the pew behind us, patted me on the shoulder, and said, “It’s okay. It happens.”
You see, my Number-4-Child is still a baby, and not completely in control of all her bodily functions. Sometimes, she will expel her little flatus. More often than not, it is in church, mostly during prayer, or in public when there is absolute silence on the entire face of the earth and the only thing to be heard is one result of my baby’s gastrointestinal workings.
(I pause here, of course, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. There are many worse things than a gassy baby in church. Her insides are working and that is a HUGE deal to be thankful for. But, I digress …)
My Number-3-Child was holding the Number-4-Child when Number-4 let it rip and Number-3 said, “She just farted! Did you hear that? She farted!”
In a really loud voice. That echoed across the sanctuary. The F-Word. In God’s house.
On the bright side, everyone knew it was the baby and no one looked at my Number-3 with surprised eyes. I have learned people are much more forgiving with babies and the elderly when it comes to this social faux pas.
With my back still stiff from the shock of it all, I leaned toward Number-3 and spoke without moving my lips – a neat little ventriloquist move I learned shortly after being in labor and delivery. “Don’t say ‘fart’ in church. Say, ‘expelled her flatus’, or ‘passed gas’, or ‘tooted’.” Then I straightened up again. Then, I leaned in again. “Don’t say ‘fart’ in public. Ever. Again.”
(Even though Geoffrey Chaucer used the word in what is now considered a literary classic, the Oxford English Dictionary says the word is “not in decent use”. Good enough for me.)
But this morning, as I was kneading out the dough for bread, I thought about that particular F-Word.
I’m sprinkling flour on the counter and pushing my palms into the dough, only to fold it and turn it one quarter, then push again … when the F-Word hits me. And then, I remembered when we lived in Southern Indiana and I had to go to the store and, with all three children in tow, we passed a car that had a bumper sticker that said, “What if the whole world farted at once?”
And, of course, since Number-1-Child and Number-2-Child were readers at that time, they thought it should be said out loud. Repeatedly. Through the entire store. And then for several days after the initial concept took root in their strange little minds, it seemed to come up every hour.
And I can’t really remember why I was thinking about the F-Word this morning. What I think I was really thinking about was the way one of my students stopped me before I went into class yesterday. I teach writing part-time at a local community college. I fill the ever widening gap between high school and college — the normal, basic writing stuff that should be taught and grasped around third grade or so.
“Mrs. H, I just think you should know that there were some girls bad-mouthing you,” he said, then looked over his shoulder and back again. “We were in this Christian Fellowship meeting and there were these girls who were saying you were the worst teacher ever. They said never to ever take you. They haven’t actually had you as a teacher.”
My student paused, pulled at his backpack strap, and leaned closer, “They said they knew girls who were in our class now. They bad-mouthed you something awful. Said terrible things. Said it in front of everybody. Said you were so strict and didn’t take nothing off nobody. I’ve had you for two years. All you’ve done is teach.”
I nodded and pressed my lips together, “I see. I appreciate that you shared that with me. Go on in and get ready for class. I’ll be there in a minute.”
When the hallway was completely clear, I did a happy dance right then and there that was a little bit of Anna Pavlova, Gene Kelly, John Travolta, and Michael Flatley all combined into one. (I am now raising funds to bribe campus security. It was after I finished the dance that I noticed the hallway surveillance cameras.)
I straightened the seams on my skirt, smoothed out my blouse and pulled open the door to my room. I was armed with a huge smile, a new knowledge that bolstered my courage and commitment, and a white hot fire of passion that propelled me straight into the day’s lesson before the door even closed behind me.
Yes, I am one of THOSE teachers.
Good teachers, I know, are rather like the F-Word. We are “not in decent use”.
But we should be.
And what if every teacher in the world just happened to be one of THOSE teachers at the same time?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go add a few words to our spelling list: gastrointestinal, flatulence, rare, gratitude, and perseverance. And I think I might need to work on some dance moves …
Yes, I am one of THOSE teachers. Thank God, I am one of THOSE.