By Blaney Pridgey
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Edward was the oldest boy in our sixth grade class, so we called him “Old Edward.” He wasn’t a boy but a full-grown teenager. Edward was real quiet and sat at the back of the row by the pencil sharpener. Our teacher wouldn’t let any of us empty the pencil sharpener, or clean the erasers except Edward. Every Friday he washed the chalk boards after school. His bus left late and came early. He was the only one in our school who rode it. I guess all of this amounted to special education in the 50s. We didn’t see Edward in the seventh grade.
We always had a party the last day of school before the Christmas holiday. A week before we drew names to exchange presents at the party. There was a dollar limit, but usually the gift would cost around fifty cents. One year, a poor girl in my class got a toothbrush and paste for her gift. I don’t remember exactly how we thought she was poor but kids know such things. Anyway, I thought that was just awful. Some classmate’s mother didn’t have much soul.
The present I received was a pitiful little model of a Korean War fighter jet in several easy pieces. It cost thirty-nine cents. You could tell on the side of the box by the serial numbers. Well, by twelve I had become a semi-professional model maker and collector. This model was well beneath my skill and dignity.
I sat across from Edward. The present he received was a model of a WWI British biplane, the Sopwith Camel. It cost ninety-eight cents and measured up to my abilities. I knew because I had spied it sometime back at the drug store. So, I struck a trade with Old Edward. . . my “modern fighter jet” for his “worn out old airplane that nobody would want.” Such was my childhood Christmas Spirit. Edward quickly agreed and we made my conniving ‘swap.’
I went home that day eager to get at my model. Then, very unlike previous productions, my construction was pitiful. Gluey thumbprints, upside down and backwards pieces, dripping paint, and mocking instructions convicted me. To forget, I smashed it up and threw it in the trash. What happened? But, compunction doesn’t last long for the young. (Compunction is mostly a middle age misery and terminal condition of the old.)
I did forget until the morning of the first day back at school. Embarking from his muddy bus, Edward called out to me. Coming toward me, he had two bags in his hands. One lunch bag with a grease ring on it and another clean bag carefully folded. He gave me the clean bag. “A present for you,” he said. “I know how much you like them models and you was kind to trade me for this one.”
Inside was a perfectly glued little jet. The tiny pilot’s helmet was bright red. “I didn’t have no paint. So I used my mom’s fingernail polish for his hat. See?” He said. “Did you make that old one?”
I lied and thanked Old Edward. He smiled, waved, and walked away. I stood still in an air of cold compunction. I didn’t have that word in my vocabulary yet, but I felt it like the flu. I kept that model for a while until all of my models began to disappear with the advent of a driver’s license and new pursuits. But, I have never forgotten Edward. Was he smarter than I thought? Was that cunning mother wit? Was it generosity? Was I a cad and got what I served? Did I receive the grace of a lifetime gift. Yes and yes and yes.
When we get our gratitude up to attitude we sometimes fly. And when you see compunction coming, go ahead and open up the bag. We all need it.