Have a Marlis Day!


Posted on: March 21, 2019

She accused me of being a fibber and threatened to call my mother. I didn’t lie then and I don’t lie today. If I say it, it’s true or I think it’s true. Sometimes writers are accused of embellishing facts to make the story more interesting. My novels are fiction but my blogs are true. This all happened because we had access to a cabin on the river where my dad did trot-line fishing. He and my uncles would harvest fish and the women would host a fish fry. It was fun going to the cabin by the river and romping on the sandbar with my brothers and cousins. One day our “town neighbors” were coming out for supper. The grown-ups were whispering about the catch that day. They had caught an eel and planned to fry it along with the fish. It was to be a surprise, no one saying a word, then watching their guests’ reactions when they tasted it. I’m sure it was my dad’s idea, he loved to play pranks on people. Not seeing the catch, I had no idea what they were talking about and since I didn’t eat fish, I ignored the whole business and went straight for the biscuits, fried potatoes, and pie. I remember the shock on the guests’ faces and the laughter around the table. but it didn’t affect me. I was probably off to catch tadpoles or something.

Until…the next week at school when our teacher taught us a new word:

SEAL S-e-a-l.  It lives in the water she told us. My little brain sparked and my hand flew up. Our conversation went something like this:

“I know about seals, I told her. My dad caught one!”

Shocked, she asked, “WHERE?

“In White River, ” I told her.

She replied, “Marlis, that’s impossible! You mustn’t tell fibs!

“But it’s true,” I protested.

“If that’s true, then where is it?” she asked wearily.

“We ate it!” I told her.

The children roared. My teacher was livid. “That’s a fib and you know it, Marlis Black. Do you want me to call your mother?

“Go ahead,” I insisted. “She’ll tell you.” I was hurt and couldn’t wait to get home to tell Mama.

Mama explained gently, “Oh, Marlis, it was an EEL not a SEAL.” The teacher had not called her.

I got over it, but I don’t think my teacher ever did. She glared at me occasionally like she expected my pants to burst into flames.

This was a long time ago, another spring just dawning. I think Grandma Bennett must have stitched up this little coat on her pedal Singer sewing machine for my birthday. I probably hated it, like all the wearable birthday gifts she made us. But I loved my brother’s hat with the wings on it.


It’s a precious little picture. I would know it was you!
All beginning teachers should read this. Sometimes we don’t think what we say will affect a child many years later, let alone at the time. I can still remember a couple of times a teacher’s words stung me too.

Thanks, Trudy, for being a faithful follower of my blog. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads it. I sorta look like a little refugee in the picture but that’s how we dressed. Hand me downs, and Buster Browns.

I had a teacher do something like that to me too. It took me years to get past my sense of betrayal. How easily adults are able to hurt children.

Loved your childhood story!!

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