My parents say it started at the exact moment I learned to speak. I was what you would call precocious. I wanted to find things out, to learn, but most of all I wanted to talk. Talk and talk and talk. I blame my mother actually; I think she passed down a gene or something. Dad and I would be completely finished with dinner and she would have barely taken a bite of anything because she talked so much. I’m also sure that this has some correlation to my attention span, which is that of a gnat. I get bored. Quickly. So, following in her footsteps, of course she encouraged me to wonder, to basically go with whatever I was feeling at the time.
See? She started it. Who gives a two year old a phone?
By the time I was cogent enough to start putting things together, I was a handful. She tells a story of us visiting a friend at a public pool near her house. I was gone for a bit and my mom finally found me just chatting up some guy. Startled, she brought me back to her seat and explained to me that I couldn’t talk to strangers like that. She didn’t scare me or yell, even though now I can imagine her fear. I took in the information and let it marinate. A few moments later and long before Forrest Gump, I marched right back over to him and introduced myself and picked the conversation up where it no doubtedly had so rudely been interrupted. As you can imagine, she was alarmed to find me back there. She apologized to the man before she basically said he could be a kidnapper and reiterated that I was not to talk to strangers. My response left both of them howling, “This is Jack. He’s not a stranger.” You see, we’d introduced ourselves - my first successful circumvention of the issue at hand. Plus, I got a laugh. Bonus.
He later told my mom that he didn’t want to be rude to me. That I was just firing questions at him left and right and as soon as he thought I would be on my way, I’d just come back with another one. Poor guy just wanted to work on his tan.
The reports of my continued talking started as soon as I was off to school. My very first report card in kindergarten suggested that I was a very good student, but talked too much. I would finish my work early and assume everyone around me had as well. That meant it was time to play, right? Seems completely logical to me.
My parents assured every teacher they would speak to me about it. And they would. They tried to help me understand that just because I was finished, didn’t mean everyone else was. That just because I was done learning whatever the teacher was saying—whether that was because the lesson was complete or I was just ready to move on—I wasn’t in charge of the direction the class should go in. Whatever.
They tried, really they did. But, when you’re a kid and your parents encourage you to become who you’re going to be, sometimes the balance is tough to figure out. I mean, we had a costume closet! Yet year after year, it was always the same thing. “Julie is a good student, but talks too much.” Looking back, it was clear that I was bored.
In second grade, the day of our fabulous Halloween Carnival no less, I came home with a note from my teacher. Not a good one.
When my mom asked me about it, I said I got bored and didn’t feel like taking the spelling test anymore. I obviously knew how to spell already and didn’t want to be troubled with having to prove it. Plus, come on, it was Herbie! He’s going bananas!
So, my mom took a look at the accompanying test.
That’s right, I was apparently so tired of taking the test, I stopped midway through a word. She made me pull out the book so she could look at it. There was some speculation that I was cheating. The word was “drop”. She scanned the entire book and it wasn’t in there once. “See? I just wanted to read Herbie!” Then she read the next page that came with the note. Stupid Mrs. Miller made me write the “5 Reasons For Not Reading a Book During a Spelling Test”.
Yeah, she obviously didn’t like my answers. A seven year old basically told her she was insane and didn't give her what she wanted. Plus, if I was getting a “zoro”, I wanted the horse that came with it. While my mom tried to control her laughter, she explained to me, once again, why I can’t just move on to something else when the first task hasn’t been completed. Of course, she threw in the bit about me not talking to everyone around me when I do finish what I’m supposed to. I just didn’t understand why they weren’t done too. The faster we get done, the faster we can move on to something fun, right? Hurry up!
It became a running joke in our house. With each report card that came, bets were taken, bribes bandied about. I lost every time. Stupid teachers. Who can’t keep their mouths shut now? I didn’t get bad grades, so they couldn’t really harp on me too much about school but I was disruptive to those around me. I tested each and every teacher I had. Mind you, I didn’t do it on purpose. I just wanted to be social.
By fifth grade, the parentals were sick of hearing about it. They had the same spiel for every teacher conference – “We know, we know.” I really feel sorry for them having to endure that over and over and over again. Finally, my dad had the brilliant idea of a contract. I’ll agree to their terms – or else. I had to sign it and everything.I especially like the fact that I am clearly being dictated what to write, but they don’t bother to tell me how to spell “whipping”.
I guess I should have finished that spelling test after all. But, as you can see, Herbie clearly was going bananas - he's fighting a bull!