Rubbing One Out, or In

Oh my God, I thought as I turned my hands over in themselves, rubbing lotion into the dry cracks of my knuckles, I’ve turned into Mrs. Loomis. She was my second grade teacher – one of my favorites – and I remember quite a few days of that school year. It was the year we each got a folder with our name on it, one we would keep until the last day of school.

In a method that would likely be unthinkable in today’s overly-egalitarian coddling of children, those students who completed a perfect day of school work would receive a sticker for our personalized folders. At the end of the year, the student with the most stickers would get to pick from a pile of prizes, and so on down the line until everyone got one. I guess in a way it was kind of cruel, but only if you were one of the dumb kids. Well, scholastically-challenged. Oh fuck it, dumb. This blog isn’t going to win any child-friendly awards any time soon.

But I digress – back to the lotion at hand. Or on hand. I use it sparingly now, remembering a certain day when Mrs. Loomis made the mistake of squeezing out more than she needed. She often sat at her desk while we were working, twisting her hands and fingers around each other after procuring a small amount of lotion from her container of Vaseline. I watched with keen interest this magic ritual. She didn’t even take her rings off to do it. One day she absent-mindedly squirted too much into her palm. She looked up and asked the class if anyone wanted some. A few girls stood up and got in line, and a boy or two. (I was not one of them.) She took a little bit from the excess on her hand and put some on each child’s hand until she had a manageable amount left. The kids acted like little adults, rubbing it in as they returned to their desks. One of the kids, Sammy, was notoriously ill-behaved. I had no tolerance for such nonsense, so he was never one of my favorites, but he stood in line, much to my amused surprise. He got his little dollop of lotion and swirled it around in his hands. My heart softened a little at that moment. I wondered if he lived in a home bereft of the luxury of lotion. I wondered what else his home might not have that mine did, and that I’d always taken for granted. While I’d never been outwardly mean (I was actually frightened of him), inwardly I became a little nicer, unsure if such an internal change made any difference at all.

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