Edith’s sister’s name was Emily. They were twins but not the kind that look alike. The thing they both shared was a birth date and then that was almost not true either. Edith was born first and just as the clock began chiming midnight Emily made her appearance. They were both beautiful…one black headed and other as white headed as moon light. Their parent were not only surprised, they were awestruck by the beauty of the girls.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, 1943
They both lead charmed childhoods. Friends flocked to their door and the boys were smitten with them before they were the age of 10. Edith was a natural flirt, a wild little girl that loved attention and craved the love of all the boys. Her dark brown wavy hair and black eyes made her a real beauty. Her father had favored Emily. The blond headed girl loved her daddy in return. She was obedient, studious and almost aloof.
So it was that Edith fell in love with Buzzard and decided that she did not need school and became pregnant to prove her point. Much to her parents embarrassment she was married at the age of 15 and a half to a boy unlike any they had ever known. When Edith and Buzzard had that first baby boy they were at a loss as to what to name him. Edith liked Fredrick and Buzzard like Ogard. Fredrick has been Edith’s grandfather’s name. Where Ogard came from no one knew. In the end the baby was blessed with the name of Frog. It was a compromise that trailed the boy around for the rest of his life. The children that followed gathered up name as unseemly as Frog…Sun, Meadow, Thrush and April with an occasion Gander and Gallop thrown in. Edith’s parents would talk in private about those names and wandered about looking puzzled for several weeks after each child was born.
Emily watched as Edith went about making this life with Buzzard and decided that her only way out of the embarrassment of have a sister married to a Buzzard and giving birth to sunbeams and frogs was to leave town altogether. A teacher at her high school suggested that she apply to a normal school and become a teacher. Her father did not want her to leave and they fought over it. It was during WWII and Emily knew that her chances for marriage were getting smaller every time a boy enlisted…not that she really cared. So she followed the teachers suggestion against her father’s will and moved away from home. She lived in a boarding house and began to work as a waitress while she went to normal school to become a teacher.
Anna was a very good friend of Buzzards and Etta was born at about the same time as Frog. She too had chosen a path that did not please her parents. But, because of their stubbornness, the two couples managed to survive and actually succeed in the line of work they chose. They were nothing if not disdainful of Emily and her so called education. They did not value what they didn’t understand or desire.
Jessie’s mom and dad lived not far from the two young couples. Laura’s father owned the grocery store and was the postmaster. They possessed an air of prosperity that did not make them popular in that tiny wayside. However, they were respected because, if it had not been for Laura’s father giving them credit, many families would not have had much to eat during the depression. Even in such a small place, there were those that prospered on an hourly wage and those the drank up their money or beat their wives. Not much is different in the human condition no matter where one turns. The same…just smaller or bigger.
By the time that Jessie had moved to town, Emily Apple returned to Morningside to begin her first teaching job in the fifth grade at Morningside Rural School. Men had come home from war and the teaching jobs became very scarce. Edith and Buzzard had moved in closer to town and owned a small acreage. Buzzard had secured a job with the highway department and Edith traveled to town to shop in a black Chevy with her “passel” of kids. The windows were smeared with finger prints and the car smelled when the doors were open. Jessie had known about the family even before she came to town and remarked to her mother one time that their farm smelled like a manure farm. Laura had to agree.
The first year that Miss Apple worked in the school she watched in dismay as her nephew bullied and terrorized the teachers and the students. The grade school principal/teacher was out of the classroom a great deal because of Frog. It was only after Buzzard was called to school and given a good talking too that Frog was brought under control. Even though Buzzard had a problem with woman teachers, a man principal got his attention. Things improved rapidly.
Miss Apple was reading “The Little Prince” written by a French author to her fifth grade students that year hoping that they would understand that people from other countries were also important and smart. The book at been very popular with the education professors at her college. She had learned about the arrogance of American people in college and it bothered her a great deal . She was an innocent and she believed everything that her professors told her. She was very “liberal” when she came back to town. Woman’s issues and rights were things that local people didn’t want to talk about with her and she became a thorn in their side. They thought that Emily Apple had gotten too big for her pants. Then that same principal that berated Buzzard sat her down for a stern lecture. Miss Apple began keeping her opinions to herself and put on a cloak of shyness and quiet speech.
Frog would be in fifth grade before long. Two years of teaching experience and a college degree might not be enough. But Aunt Emily was waiting and watching. She was almost positive that she could settle that boy down. “Frog,” she would say, “do as you are told!” She was sure that was all that it would take. Then she came to the part in “The Little Prince” when the author wrote “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” She stopped reading and the class finally asked if anything was wrong. The image of her taming Frog and then forever being his keeper made her wonder about her chosen profession. As she glanced up she noticed Frog being marched off again to the eighth grade classroom where the principal also taught. She just sighed and said “No, no, I’m just fine. I was just enjoying the quiet in the classroom. Thank you boys and girls for being such good listeners.” She somehow knew that when Frog came to fifth grade, such phrases were not going to work. Not even a little bit.