On Being Three

The following poem appears in my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It’s about a time I barely remember, a time when as a toddler, I may have broken my father’s ashtray.

On Being Three

I barely remember that year.
Mother said my first word was ashtray.
That’s funny—I’ve never smoked.
My earliest memory is of Dad cursing a blue streak.
Hmm—maybe he swore because I broke his ashtray.

Do you remember when you were three? Think back to your earliest recollection, and tell me about it. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

This is the title of the opening poem in my new book How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste it below. Today, I finished proofing the manuscript and e-mailed the proof form to my Publishing Services Associate. She assured me that I would receive final proofs in a few days so we’re moving right along. I’ll post more poems from the book here in coming weeks.

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

It’s about a quarter to twelve on Saturday, January 28th, 2006.
I’m walking downtown where I’ll meet a friend for lunch.
Afterward, I’ll come home, finish laundry,
read a book, anticipate the spaghetti dinner he’ll fix later.
At four o’clock, I’ll listen to “A Prairie Home Companion.”
At six, I’ll meet others in my singing group at the Eagles Club
where we’ll perform for a wine tasting.
At seven, I’ll come home, expect to find supper on the table—
instead, he’ll be lying on the floor.
Our lives won’t be the same.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Questions and Answers

I’m getting a head start on putting together marketing materials for my book How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. One of these is what’s called a Q & A which contains information about me and the book. This will be sent along with a press release to the media. I’ll paste it below for your perusal.


Q. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

A. I was born in New York City on June 1st, 1961. We only lived there for about a year. My parents had degrees in education, but they wanted to become actors. However, they realized that teaching careers would provide a more stable income. After a year in New York, we moved to Boulder, Colorado. When I was about four, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. In 1973, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming. My grandfather died a couple of years earlier, and my grandmother needed someone to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. Since no one else seemed interested, my father felt obligated to take over. Sheridan has been my home ever since.

Q. Because of your visual impairment, were you educated in special schools?

A. In Tucson, I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind for five and a half years. When my parents became dissatisfied with my education, they transferred me to a public school. When we moved to Sheridan, I completed my education in public schools.

Q. Where did you go to college?

A. When I graduated from high school in 1980, I thought I wanted to be a rock singer. I went to Sheridan College for two years where I majored in music performance and graduated with an AA degree. I then transferred to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where I again majored in music performance and graduated with a BA degree after two and a half years. While I was there, a career counselor told me about music therapy, the use of music with a variety of populations including the elderly and mentally ill to achieve therapeutic goals. Since Montana State University had a music therapy program, I transferred there after graduating from Rocky Mountain College. After two more years of study and an internship in a nursing home in Fargo, North Dakota, I returned to Sheridan in 1988. Almost a year later, I found a job conducting activities in a nursing home where I used the music therapy skills I learned.

Q. You’re not working there now?

A. No, I quit so I could write full time.

Q. Was that when your writing career got off the ground?

A. No, I started writing a few years before I quit my day job. Several of my poems and stories were published in various journals and anthologies, and I wrote my first novel We Shall Overcome. When I married my husband Bill, he persuaded me to write full time.

Q. How much vision do you have, and do you use any adaptive devices to make your life easier?

A. I can see people, objects, places, and some pictures. I can read print if it’s large enough. I use a desktop video magnifier, and my computer has software that reads the screen to me in synthetic speech, allows me to navigate using the keyboard, and tells me what I’m typing. I use a white cane while walking around town.

Q. Where did you get the idea for How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver?

A. In January of 2006, three months after we were married, Bill suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. He spent months in a nursing facility where he received therapy and finally came home the following September. at that time, I found myself writing more poems about him and the trials and tribulations of being a family caregiver.

Q. Where did you come up with the title?

A. I’ll have to give our caseworker at the local senior center’s in-home services program most of the credit for that. Several years ago, one of the aides who gave Bill his shower three days a week claimed the process of transferring him from the bed to the commode was bothering her back. Our caseworker said, “I wish I knew how to build a better mousetrap.” That’s what being a caregiver is about. You sometimes have to find different ways of doing things, and it can be especially tricky when you can’t see very well. You often figure things out by trial and error.

Q. Are all the poems in the book about taking care of Bill?

A. No, the majority cover such topics as feeding, dressing, and toileting. Some are from Bill’s point of view. One in particular is from the point of view of his computer which he has trouble using because of his lack of short-term memory and use of his left arm. Some poems provide a humorous outlook on being a family caregiver. Others offer a heartwarming look at our relationship. Poems in the second and third parts of the book cover childhood memories and reflect on other topics. The last part contains poems inspired by my fifteen years experience working with nursing home residents.

Q. Bill is still in a wheelchair today?

A. Yes, when he came home in 2006, we hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. But in January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In august of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he wasn’t showing any progress. He may never walk again, but that doesn’t matter. We love each other, and we’ll enjoy our life together for as long as we can.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How To Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections Of a Family Caregiver

How to Build a Better Mousetrap

It’s becoming a reality. Yesterday, I submitted my poetry manuscript to iUniverse. It is entitled How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It contains 66 poems that cover such topics as aspects of being a family caregiver, childhood memories, and aging. Below is a description of the book that will appear on the cover. Will keep you posted as to the book’s progress through the publishing process.

In January of 2006, Abbie Johnson Taylor’s husband suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. After months of therapy in a nursing facility, he returned home in September of that year. Although he still had little use of his left arm and leg, it was hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. In January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In August of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he showed no progress. He has never walked since.

The first five poems tell the story of how Taylor found her husband when he suffered his first stroke, detail events in the first few months afterward, and describe Taylor and her husband’s reactions. The rest of the poems in the first part were inspired by Taylor’s experiences while caring for her husband. Covering such topics as dressing, feeding, toileting, their relationship, and his computer, they often provide a humorous outlook. Some poems are from the husband’s point of view. Poems in the next two parts cover childhood memories and other topics. The last section of poems was inspired by Taylor’s fifteen years of experience as a registered music therapist in a nursing home before marrying her husband.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver


In the months between the time I agreed to marry Bill and the time he moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, to be with me, I wrote the following poem. If you haven’t read the story of how Bill and I met and were married, click here. You can read the poem on my Website.


In the morning,
I kiss the sheets, pillowcases, his towel,
drink in his scent.

When I eat breakfast,
I wish he were there
to drop Raisin Bran crumbs on the carpet,
talk to me,
take my hand,
kiss me.

All through the day,
I wish he were with me
to rub aching muscles,
hold and kiss me when I least expect it.

In the evening,
I wish he could do the dishes
while I read him the paper.
Later, as I sit with my feet up, enjoying a good book,
I wish he were opposite me, doing the same.

As I drift off to sleep,
I wish he were next to me
with his arms around me.

One day, we’ll be together.
Until then,
all I have are memories.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

A Serial Miracle

Halloween is just around the corner. Here’s a story I wrote years ago after reading an e-mail message someone forwarded me about a serial killer who lured women out of their houses at night with a recording of a crying baby. My story was published in the spring of 2009 in Emerging Voices, a literary journal produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.


I woke with a start when I heard the baby cry. I’d been dozing in an arm chair in the living room. I jumped to my feet and stopped short. That wasn’t David. He died a few days earlier. I was the one to find his cold, limp body. Now, I heard a crying baby.

It was late on Halloween. Because I didn’t feel like distributing goodies this year, I hadn’t turned on the front porch light. The baby’s cries came from just outside the front door. My husband Mark was working late. As the cries persisted, I wished he were here.

Was I going crazy? Some women in my situation suffered from delusions that their babies were still alive. The best thing to do was go to bed. I could take a couple of sleeping pills. As I walked into the bedroom, the cries grew fainter. I hurried back into the living room, and the cries became louder. There had to be a baby out there.

Before I could take another step, I remembered something I heard on the ten o’clock news. A serial killer lured women out of their homes with a recording of a baby crying. This didn’t sound like a tape. It was real. I decided to take a chance.

I switched on the porch light and flung open the door. A crying bundle lay a few inches from the open doorway. A cold gust of wind hit me in the face.

“Oh you poor thing. You must be nearly frozen.” I carried the bundle inside and closed the door. The crying stopped.

The infant was wrapped in a thin white blanket. I saw a bald head and blue eyes. How small the baby was. It couldn’t have been more than a few days old. David was three months old when he died. It was a miracle.

I carried the baby into David’s old room and turned on the light. Everything was the same as it was before David’s death. The crib stood against one wall with a changing table next to it. The rocking chair sat by the window. As I laid the infant on the table, I saw a note attached to the blanket. As I unpinned it, the baby whimpered. I carried the infant to the rocker.

“Are you hungry, sweetheart? I’ll get you changed and fed in a minute. I just need to see what this note says.”

Tears filled my eyes, as I read the handwritten message. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Olson, You don’t know me, but I read about the death of your baby boy in the obituaries. I just had this baby a few days ago, but I’m only sixteen years old, and I can’t take care of her. I think you guys could probably give her a better home so I’m giving her to you. I named her Elizabeth, but you can call her what you want. I hope you like girls. Sincerely, a caring teen mother”

“Honey, I’m home,” called Mark.

“I’m in David’s room.” I rose to my feet, cradling the baby.

Mark appeared in the doorway and gaped in astonishment. “What’s this?”

“Oh Mark, the most wonderful thing has happened. Come and meet our daughter Elizabeth.”


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


This is not an announcement of a forthcoming addition to the Taylor family. This is actually a story I wrote several years ago about what happens when a teen-ager writes an essay on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and uses the word pregnant. I got the idea from a Reader’s Digest article in which the author talks about a similar experience he had with his fifth grade teacher while writing a similar essay. In his story, he said that when he was sent home with a note, his mother told him he’d better do what the teacher said or else. I realized that my parents who were English teachers would never have reacted in this way. They would have challenged my teacher’s decision on my use of the word pregnant, and that’s how this work of fiction was born. You can also read it on my Website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com/Pregnant.htm


A funny thing happened a year ago when I was a sophomore in high school. In my English class, we read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck which is about a poor southern family who moves to California to find a better life during the Great Depression. We were assigned to write an essay about the book. One of the family members had just gotten out of prison, and his sister was pregnant. Although we weren’t poor and nobody in my family had been in prison or was pregnant when we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, the year before, our situation was similar.

Before we moved here, we were living happily, I thought, in Tucson, Arizona, where my parents taught English at the university. But my folks decided they couldn’t take the heat of Arizona and they no longer wanted to teach at a big university. They quit their jobs and sold the house. We loaded all our earthly possessions into two cars and a U-Haul and hit the road. My older brother Karl and I didn’t want to leave school and our friends. Since Karl played the guitar in a rock band, he didn’t want to leave that, either, but my parents prevailed and off we went.

Mom and Dad thought it might be nice to settle in California by the ocean. Karl liked this idea because it would put us closer to Los Angeles where there was sure to be a rock band he could join. But for some reason, our parents didn’t like any of the towns including L.A., which they said was just like Tucson so we headed north.

For several days, we drove through towns in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, but Mom and Dad still weren’t happy. We finally arrived in Sheridan, and there was something about this town they liked. Karl and I weren’t thrilled because there were no shopping malls and only one movie theater, but Dad and Mom decided that this would be our new home.

We bought a three-story red brick house and the entire third floor became Karl’s domain. He met a boy his age who played the drums, and the two of them formed their own little rock band. Dad and Mom both found jobs teaching English at Sheridan College, and we soon started school and made new friends. About a year later, here I was, writing an essay on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

I wrote a paper describing the similarities and differences between the family in the book and our family. Mom rewrote it. It was a perfect paper except for one flaw.

“You can’t use the word pregnant,” said Mr. Hilton, in his smug, British accent, as he handed my paper back to me.

I sat at my desk and stared at him. “What’s wrong with the word pregnant?”

“It’s just not an appropriate word to use. You can say that she was in the family way or that she was with child. But you just can’t say that she was pregnant. You’ll have to redo the paper.”

“Redo the whole paper just because I used the word pregnant?”

The room fell silent, and heads turned to look at us. “Will you please keep your voice down? You did this on a computer, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“You saved it, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I said again.

“Then all you have to do is open the document, delete the word pregnant, put in something else, and print another copy.”

“That’s ridiculous! There’s nothing wrong with the word pregnant. We use it at our house all the time. Not that anyone in my family is pregnant. What I’m trying to say is that nobody in my family was pregnant while we were traveling across the country looking for a better life.”

People snickered, and I felt my face grow red. I wished my best friend Gwen Curtis were there to stick up for me, but she was in a different class.

With a sigh, Mr. Hilton turned and walked back to his desk. A few minutes later, he returned with a handwritten note. “Please give this to your mother. You have until tomorrow to make that change in your paper. If you don’t, you’ll get an F.”

As Mr. Hilton walked back to his desk, I glanced at the note. It said what he just told me and also that I was arrogant and disrespectful. I didn’t know what to think. Technically, it wasn’t my paper. I was tempted to march up to his desk and tell him that my mom, a college English professor, wrote it for me. But I figured I would get into even more trouble for not writing my own paper. It would be better to do as I was told and leave it at that.

Word of what I said to Mr. Hilton spread like wildfire. Whenever I walked into a classroom or even into the girls’ bathroom, other kids turned and looked at me and snickered. Boys who passed me in the hall said, “Stephanie, I hear you’re pregnant. Congratulations! Who’s the father?”

When the bell rang to signal the end of the last class, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. For once, I was the first one on the school bus going home. As I walked in the front door, Mom was hanging up the phone in the front hall and looked upset. “Honey, I just got a call from Mr. Hilton. He said he sent a note home with you. Could I see it, please?”

My heart sank. I hadn’t intended to show her or Dad the note. I was just going to sneak to the computer while Mom was fixing dinner and make the change. If she happened to notice what I was doing, I would just tell her that Mr. Hilton said I needed to revise the paper.

“Mom.” Before I could continue, I burst into tears.

“Oh sweetie,” Mom said, as she took me into her arms. It felt good to cry on her shoulder and smell her perfume.

“I made a big fool out of myself in English class today. I don’t know if I can ever go back.”

“Honey, it can’t be that bad. Why don’t you tell me what happened and show me the note?”

I told her everything including the fact that I said nobody in my family was pregnant and how other kids treated me after that. I got the note out of my back pack and handed it to her. After glancing at it, her face turned red and she tossed it into a nearby waste basket. “That arrogant fool!” she said. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the word pregnant, and I intend to write him a letter and tell him so. You’ll give him that letter tomorrow with your paper the way it is. If Mr. Hilton doesn’t like it, that’s too bad.”

“But Mom, he’ll give me an F if I don’t change the paper.”

“If he does, I’ll go to the principal. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to the school board. What Mr. Hilton is doing is just not right, Stephanie, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Mom, I’m already the laughing stock of the whole school. This is just going to make it worse.”

“Stephanie, we have to stand up for what we believe. Besides, we may not even have to go to the school board. I’ll bet when Mr. Hilton reads my letter, he’ll see my point and give you a passing grade. Also, there are girls your age who actually get pregnant. That can be a lot worse than what happened to you today.”

Mom was right. When I thought about it, I realized that at least I hadn’t given birth to a dead baby like the woman in The Grapes of Wrath.

Gwen called before dinner and when I told her Mom might take my case all the way to the school board, she said, “I don’t think it’ll get that far. Miss Rutledge doesn’t like Mr. Hilton so I’m sure she’ll side with you and your mom on this.”

“How do you know that?”

“Last year, Mr. Hilton and Miss Rutledge had an affair that ended bitterly.”

“Get out of here!”

“I’m serious. I overheard Dad telling Mom about it last year. As the school superintendent, he didn’t think it was appropriate for a principal and a teacher to be romantically involved. He went to Miss Rutledge and asked her to break off the relationship. Miss Rutledge refused, saying she loved Mr. Hilton and she’d go back to teaching if that would make their relationship more acceptable. She said she hated being a principal anyway. Dad went to Mr. Hilton and he broke it off. Miss Rutledge was really mad at him.”

“How do you know this?”

“Dad told Mom they were both at a school board meeting soon after this happened and Miss Rutledge wouldn’t even speak to him.”

“So Miss Rutledge could fire Mr. Hilton if he gives me an F on my paper.”

“Not exactly,” said Gwen. “You can’t fire a teacher for something like that. It has to be more serious. But she could make his life so miserable he’d quit.”

“She hasn’t done anything to make his life miserable so far, has she?”

“Not that I know of,” Gwen answered. “She still hasn’t found a way to do it. Your situation could be it.”

“What if it isn’t? What if my mom takes this thing to your dad and the other school board members?”

“Trust me. It won’t get past Miss Rutledge. She’ll find a way to deal with this that will satisfy your mother. You wait and see.”

Gwen and I were close friends. If she said it would be all right, she was probably right. It was with a sigh of relief that I went downstairs for dinner.

During the meal, Mom told Dad what happened and I told him about how the other kids treated me afterwards and how embarrassed I was. Karl, the loving older brother that he was, snickered and said, “In nine months, some brat’s gonna be calling me Uncle Karl.”

“Shut up!” I said, as I hung my head.

“Karl, I think Stephanie has had enough humiliation for one day,” said Mom.

“I’m sorry,” said Karl with a shrug.

When Mom told Dad she was planning to write a letter to Mr. Hilton, he said, “That’s a good idea, honey. What he’s doing, in a way, is censorship.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“In some countries, the government won’t send people’s letters if they don’t like what those people have written,” said Dad. “Sometimes they’ll cut out parts of a letter they don’t like before they send it.”

Although I wasn’t writing a letter, was Mr. Hilton censoring my English paper by telling me I couldn’t write the word pregnant? If that was the case, Mom and Dad were right. Government was not one of my best subjects in school but I knew about our right to freedom of expression and I realized that my right was being violated. I decided that I didn’t care who laughed at me or made jokes about me being pregnant. I was going to fight, along with Mom and Dad, for my right to free expression as an American, even though I didn’t write the paper.

After dinner, Mom wrote the letter. It said that by giving me an F on the paper because I used a word he thought was inappropriate, Mr. Hilton was going against a value she and Dad were trying to teach us, the American value of being able to write what we want without persecution. As a college English teacher, Mom said she didn’t judge a paper on whether inappropriate words were used. She only determined whether the point was well made and she paid particular attention to grammar and spelling. Mom said she read my paper and she believed I made some good points and there were no grammatical or spelling mistakes. In conclusion, she said she thought my paper deserved a passing grade.

The next day at school, some kids still looked at me andsnickered, but I ignored them. When I walked into my English class that afternoon, I put Mom’s note and my untouched paper on the desk in front of Mr. Hilton. “What’s this?” he asked, glancing at the note.

“It’s a letter from my mom saying why I won’t change my paper,” I answered, standing before him with my head held high.

He looked at the letter and said, “Stop by after school, and I’ll have another note for your mother. You now have until tomorrow to make that change, or you’ll get an F, and that’s all there is to it.”

During the bus ride home, I read his letter. It said that teaching college students was different from teaching high school students and that there were certain words that young people in my age group shouldn’t use and pregnant was one of them. It also said that Mom should mind her own business since Mr. Hilton never told her how to teach her classes. By the time I got home, I was fuming and Mom was waiting. Without a word, I handed her Mr. Hilton’s letter and went upstairs to do my homework

After dinner, Mom wrote two letters: one to Mr. Hilton and one to Miss Rutledge. The one to Mr. Hilton said that Mom and Dad still didn’t agree with his decision to give me an F if I didn’t make the change he wanted and that they were appealing to Miss Rutledge. The one to Miss Rutledge told the whole story and said that Mom and Dad hoped she would do the right thing. Both Mom and Dad signed the letters. When I told them what Gwen said about Mr. Hilton and Miss Rutledge, Dad said that was nobody’s business but theirs.

The next morning when I got to school, I went straight to the main office. The school secretary, Miss Evans, smiled when I entered. When I told her I needed to give Miss Rutledge a letter from my parents, she pointed to a nearby doorway and said, “Go right on in. She’s free.” When I hesitated, she laughed and said, “She won’t bite you. She loves to talk to students.”

Still feeling a little unsure of myself, I went to the open doorway and peered into the office. Miss Rutledge was sitting at her desk. When she saw me, she rose and said with a smile,“Come in.”

Feeling a little more at ease, I walked into the room and up to the desk. We shook hands. “I don’t think we’ve met,” she said.

“I’m Stephanie Andrews. I’m a sophomore this year.”

“Hello Stephanie. What can I do for you today?”

Never before did a principal ask what she could do for me. With confidence, I said, “I have a letter for you from my parents. It’s about this paper I wrote for my English class about John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Mr. Hilton doesn’t like me using the word pregnant. He says if I don’t change it, he’ll give me an F on the paper, and my parents and I disagree with that.”

I put the note on the desk. She picked it up, and as she read it, I thought I detected a ghost of a smile. “I see. Do you have a copy of this paper with you? I’d like to read it.”

This was another surprise. No principal ever took an interest in my schoolwork before. “Sure,” I said, as I took it out of my back pack.

“Do you have a free period today before your English class?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have third period free,” I said.

“Good,” she said. Instead of going to study hall, come here. We’ll talk about your paper.”

“Thanks,” I said. As I headed for my first class of the day, I couldn’t help thinking what a neat principal Miss Rutledge was. She was going to take time out of her busy schedule to read my paper and talk to me about it. Technically, it was Mom’s paper, but what did that matter?

During the next two hours, I could hardly concentrate. I kept wondering what Miss Rutledge would say about the paper. Would she agree with me and my folks that it was okay for me to say that the character in the book was pregnant, or would she take Mr. Hilton’s side? If she did, what would happen?

When the bell finally rang at the end of second period, I hurried through the crowded halls. I slowed down when I reached the main office. It wouldn’t do to look too eager. Miss Evans smiled and said, “Go right on in, Stephanie. She’s waiting for you.”

When I stuck my head in the door, Miss Rutledge rose from her desk and smiled at me. “Come on in, and please close the door,” she said.

I did what she asked and took a chair opposite her desk. I braced myself for what might come next.

Still smiling, Miss Rutledge said, “Stephanie, I think you have written an excellent paper. You have made some good points and I see nothing wrong with your use of the word pregnant.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” she answered. “In fact, although it’s been years since I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath, it seems that John Steinbeck also used the word.”

“But wasn’t he older than me when he wrote that book?”

“Yes, but I don’t quite understand what Mr. Hilton has against you using that word. I’ll talk to him, and I’ll see that you get a passing grade. You have worked hard on this paper, and you deserve it.”

As I left Miss Rutledge’s office, her last words struck me as funny. She said I worked hard on the paper. Actually, Mom wrote it.

That afternoon, I walked into Mr. Hilton’s English class as usual. While the others went to their seats, I stopped by Mr. Hilton’s desk and put my untouched paper on it along with the letter from my parents. “What’s this?” Mr. Hilton asked.

“My parents and I still think I deserve a passing grade for this paper,” I said. “I talked to Miss Rutledge about it, and she agrees.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Mr. Hilton.

I was ecstatic as I walked to my desk and sat down. Mr. Hilton closed the door and walked to the front of the room. As soon as he opened his mouth, the door opened and in walked Miss Rutledge with a broad grin on her face. Mr. Hilton glared at her but she only smiled and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Hilton. This will only take a moment. Class, it has come to my attention that Mr. Hilton doesn’t like you using the word pregnant in your writing. Is that right?”

“Yeah,” some of us muttered, and heads turned in my direction but I didn’t care.

“We’re going to see if we can’t change his mind,” she said. “Are you guys willing to help me?”

“Sure,” a few people said. Others just stared at her.

“On the count of three, we’re all going to say the word pregnant together. Ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant,” we mumbled, and there were a few titters.

“Come on,” said Miss Rutledge, laughing. “Don’t be afraid of that word. It’s not going to bite you. Again, ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant,” we said, this time with more assurance.

“That’s better,” said Miss Rutledge. “but I don’t think we’ve convinced him. Let’s try it one more time and this time, let’s see how loud we can say it. All right. Ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant!” we yelled.

Mr. Hilton glowered at Miss Rutledge and then at us and said, “Fine. Use any damn word you want. I don’t care because I quit!” He turned on his heel and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

Miss Rutledge picked up my paper. She scribbled something on it and walked to my desk and handed it to me. She still had that broad grin on her face. I looked at the paper. At the top, she’d written, “A+.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Here I was, getting an A+ for a paper my mother wrote.

Miss Rutledge took over Mr. Hilton’s classes and the vice principal took over the running of the school. Later, we heard that Mr. Hilton got a job driving a truck. The following summer, Miss Rutledge and Mr. Hilton were married. By the start of the next school year, Mrs. Hilton was, well, in the family way.


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome