Okay, I know this a timeworn tale that's been retold by generations of relocated northerners turned southerners, so if you’ve heard it before you can just go ahead and skip by. For those of you who haven’t encountered the phenomenon of palm reading as an educational subject, I’ll recount my own version.
My middle school-aged son came home from his new school in North Carolina, and informed me that he would be reading palms the following day in class. Now I don’t know about you, but where we come from -- Long Island, New York -- this isn’t your standard educational fair.
That’s not to say they didn’t do any weird educational things back home. The time the physical education teacher set up the obstacle course in the gymnasium to look like a war zone comes to mind. The end result was to kick Saddam Hussein in the . . . well, anyway. The kids loved it, and you know that as parents we can’t have our children loving school, so an army of mothers stormed the front office and General Gym Teacher was fired faster than a cannon shot.
I can’t say that I didn’t expect things to be a little different here in the south. I just thought they’d be somewhat similar in the education department. I knew his classes from New York might not match up exactly to what he was working on back home. That’s why I insisted on making the move before he entered high school. I guess I just never expected them to be this different.
"Did you say palm reading?"
He said, "Yes. The teacher said we should be prepared to do some palm reading tomorrow."
"How exactly do you prepare for that?"
"I don’t know. Can I stay home?"
This is my son’s favorite way of getting out of things he doesn’t want to do. He simply avoids doing them. He also uses this technique on homework assignments and over due class projects.
Even though I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of him learning to read palms, I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea about the importance of a good education so I said, "No. You have to go to school tomorrow." I secretly pictured a bunch of thirteen-year-olds wearing turbans, waving wands and staring into crystal balls, Harry Potter style.
"Okay," he asked, "but how do I prepare?"
"I don’t know, but I’d start by washing your hands."
For some reason, my youngest never did appreciate my sense of humor.
Feeling bad about insisting that he step into the world of mysticism, unprepared, I decided to try to help him by doing a little research online. To my dismay, there wasn’t any useful information to be found. I called my mother-in-law because she has a friend -- okay a few friends -- that read cards and tea leaves, coffee grounds, banana peels but no one knew anything about palm reading. So the next day my poor son had to leave no better prepared than he had been the day before (except that his hands were spotless).
I was nervous all day, worrying about him and his lack of palm reading abilities. I thought about calling the school to inform them that I didn’t think it was proper for them to be teaching such ridiculous things. I paced around my house and got nothing done for the entire six and a half hours he was gone.
When he returned, he went straight to the kitchen where I was waiting for him. He started to grab a bag of chips and I stopped him.
"Not until you tell me about your palm reading lesson."
He started laughing.
"What’s so funny?"
He tried to tell me but he was laughing too hard.
A few minutes later, when he was finally able to control himself, he said, "When I got there, I told the teacher that I had never read palms before. She looked at me like I was some kind of idiot and said that she didn’t believe me. She said that everyone, in every school district in the United States would have had to read some palms before the eighth grade. When I told her that I hadn’t, she got mad and said that I was just trying to get away with something. I told her that I really wanted to learn and she said, fine, you can go first. I was trying to show her my hands, but she made me sit down."
"Go on," I said.
"She told the class that since we have a new student who had never read palms before she was going to have to do a little review work before we could get started. That’s when she took out her chalk and wrote on the blackboard." He began to chuckle once more.
"What did she write?" I was getting exasperated with him.
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