Student of the Month

I got this once because everyone else in the class already got it. I guess they didn’t want me to feel left out and then kill myself at 19.

Megan got it 3 times in a row and they only gave it to Becky for the 4th month because she happened to witness and report a playground accident in a timely and courageous manner. Then it was back to Megan for months of big spirited charity upon weeks of patience and perseverance upon days of obedience and punctuality upon hours of honesty and diligence upon minutes of selflessness and longsuffering. I think she was canonized during the year-end pep rally.

It was a stupid white sheet with a dumb dancing border and template lines for the recipient’s name and the date, with a baroque seal in the corner signed by the Principal. This was before the days of also getting a bumper sticker for the family mini-van, thank the Lord.

Well, maybe I didn’t deserve it. In 3rd grade the teacher wrote on my report card that “Grablatch gets ‘in a mood’ sometimes.” And the kids would chant at me during gym class as I ran up and down the court, “Sull-en! Sull-en!” I did withdraw and pout for lots of reasons, most of which I gratefully forget. But surprisingly, my teacher’s and classmates’ astute observations about my behavior did not succeed in helping me to get out of moods into whatever their opposite is—sprightliness? And I certainly didn’t see the path out either. It all made for a lot more sullenness and a lot fewer awards.

But you better believe I tried to make up for it by beating the whole class in the 50-yard dash and winning the spelling bee and selling the most magazines for the fundraiser and getting stickers on all my homework and and and. Yet the student of the month certificate was beyond my reach, except that once, when I didn’t even deserve it. Really, that stupid sheet meant “the person of the month,” and I guess everyone needs to earn that once…or else you’ll eat your height in fudge and whiskey to dull the pain.

The clinical overachieving lasted through college until every spark of laughter was snuffed out of my dry and tired soul. It wasn’t until I started refusing to prove myself that the laughing returned. Since then, I have gained 200 pounds, grown a beard, and welcomed 35 cats and 6 inches of dust into my apartment. Who's laughing now?