The Seven Wonders ©
The focus on Becky seemed greater than ever, now that her new school classrooms were smaller, thus amplifying her every awkward trait. No longer could she conceal her gawky clothes, frail limbs, and shy demeanor by simply blending into the crowd. As the newest 4th grader in a much smaller town she became a recluse, while every day anticipating that final bell so as to free herself from her self-imposed anguish.
Never a student to overly participate in class, the secrets carried from her old school caused her to retreat deeper into a solitary shell. Mrs. Abbott seemed to be the only person who cared as she constantly called on Becky during class in an effort to draw her from behind her shield, typically to no avail.
The Generals, a group of bullies who thought they ran the 4th grade, made sure Becky remained concealed in her cocoon by snickering every time she spoke. Other kids, Sandy being one of them, never let the Generals affect her. Oh how Becky longed to be like Sandy; strong, popular, and confident.
“Class, let’s quiet down. Take out a pencil to write down your homework assignment.” Mrs. Abbott’s directive was followed by a uniform moan from the class. “We are going to begin studying the Seven Wonders of the World. Your assignment is to write down the Seven Wonders by tomorrow.” Her words were barely audible as the final bell rang and the class began packing for their daily sprint to the exits. “Don’t forget, by tomorrow!”
When Becky got home she immediately dove into her assignment. How easy, she thought, and excitedly began scribbling down her answers without needing to do any research. This assignment was a piece of cake.
The next morning Mrs. Abbott led the group in a rousing rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance, quickly followed by those dreaded words, “Take out your assignments.” Among the shuffling paper, and obligatory 4th grade murmur, Mrs. Abbott said, “Who wants to be the first to answer this question: What are the Seven Wonders of the World?”
With an unexpected “Ooo! Ooo!” Becky franticly raised her hand. Surprised by her enthusiasm, Mrs. Abbott pointed to Becky to answer the question, but was rudely interrupted by one of the Generals shouting out his answer, “The Seven Wonders of the World include the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Panama Canal, …” and he continued with all seven.
Before Mrs. Abbott could explain how he just listed the Seven Modern Wonders, another of the Generals blurted out, “Those aren’t the Seven Wonders! My list includes the Great Wall of China, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Roman Coliseum...” She proceeded to list all seven of the Medieval Wonders.
“That’s not right either!” shouted another student. Clearly, the Generals were now in complete command of Mrs. Abbott’s class as she patiently sat back and watched. “The Seven Wonders include the Egyptian Pyramids, the Statue of Zeus…” and he proceeded to name the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
“O.K. class, are we done yet?” asked Mrs. Abbott. “Surely there can’t be more!”
Becky retreated back into her shell, clasping her hands firmly on her lap, no longer eager to lend her knowledge to the group.
“I have some more!” bellowed another classmate. “I found stuff like the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, and the Great Barrier Reef.”
“Those, too, are correct! The ones you listed are considered the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The rest of you listed the other categories such as Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Wonders. They’re ALL correct in their own way. Now, without shouting out any answers, is there anybody else who has anything different?”
Silence engulfed the room as the kids glanced around at each other to see if a lonesome hand made a presence. Mrs. Abbott heard a slight crumpling sound as she spied Becky trying to slide her paper on the chair beneath her legs. “Becky, I noticed that you had your hand up earlier, before you were so rudely interrupted.” She threw a stern glare at the Generals. “Which of these lists did you come up with?”
With great hesitation Becky’s paper slowly reappeared on the top of her desk. She gingerly flattened it out. After a slight pause she said, “Um, Mrs. Abbott, I’m not sure I quite understood the homework assignment. I didn’t have any of those on my list.” The snide remarks and snickers came as usual from the Generals.
“Class, knock it off. Becky, I’m assuming you had something written down, is that correct?”
“Um, yes ma’am!”
Not wanting Becky’s initial enthusiasm to go unnoticed, Mrs. Abbott said, “Well I am very much interested in hearing your answers.”
After a long pause, Becky reluctantly lifted her sheet of paper, holding it as if it were a fortress protecting her from the stares, and began reading aloud in a barely audible voice.
'The Seven Wonders of the World"
I wonder how a tiny seed can grow into a giant tree?
I wonder how Lightening Bugs light?
I wonder why parents sometimes leave their children?
I wonder if grown ups get scared like me?
I wonder what it’s like to have a back yard?
I wonder why bad things happen to good people?
I wonder why God let’s innocent people suffer?
Becky’s eyes remained glued to her paper, afraid to look up amid the eerie silence. Not even the Generals made a sound.
“Very profound,” said Mrs. Abbott, “very profound indeed. Thank you Becky. O.K. class, now please pass your papers to the front.” Mrs. Abbott embraced her normal routine, with no further mention of Becky’s response.
Profound was not a word familiar to Becky, although she assumed it couldn’t be good. As the girl seated in front of her reached back and removed the paper from her hands to send it to the front of the class, Becky felt overexposed to the familiar awkward stares of her classmates. She summoned the courage to slowly lift her eyes, and noticed Sandy glancing her way. Sandy, in her normal strong demeanor, gave Becky a comforting smile as if to say “I think you’re O.K.”, then turned back to the front of the class.
Mrs. Abbott graded the papers during the morning reading hours, and passed them back to the students before lunch. Based upon the individual responses of the students, Becky could tell most of the kids did well, with a few finding the need to brag as such. Becky held her breath as Mrs. Abbott approached her with her paper.
Gently the paper floated from Mrs. Abbott’s hands onto her desk, delivered with a wink and a soft smile. Becky could see the red ink at the top and feared the worst. With her heart pounding she focused on Mrs. Abbott’s handwriting. In all my years of teaching I have never been so impressed by a student’s work! A+++!
Becky gasped with excitement as she grabbed the paper and drew it to her chest in a crumpling embrace. She pushed it away to reread it, verifying it wasn’t a mirage. Back to her chest it went as she embraced the graded assignment with eyes focused skyward, and a giant smile, utterly amazed at her huge accomplishment.
In her bliss she noticed Sandy approaching as the lunch bell rang. “It looks like you’ve got some pretty good news there!” Sandy said. “Say, my friends and I were wondering if you’d like to sit with us during lunch today? We think you’ll fit in just fine with us Non-Generals!”
With a sparkle in her eyes, and a shy little shrug of the shoulders, Becky chuckled, “Sure!” As she got up from her desk to join her new friends, she made her way through the neatly aligned desks to the classroom door. Before exiting the room she glanced back and saw Mrs. Abbott pleasantly witnessing Sandy’s kind gesture. With sincere appreciation Becky tossed Mrs. Abbott her own version of a wink and smile, and exited the room, permanently leaving behind her protective shell that was never to be worn again.
- Richard Doyle -