Gooney Bird and the Room Mother Page 7

"Mr. Leroy?" Gooney Bird said. "Could you tell us the meaning of imitation, please?"

The principal looked up and cleared his throat. "Well, ah," he said with a nervous little laugh. "It means fake. You are a fake Squanto."

Gooney Bird looked behind her at the semicircle of Pilgrims and Native Americans. "Barry?" she said. Barry, pushing his headband up on his forehead, stepped forward.

"Imitation," Barry said in a loud voice. "Something made to be as much as possible like something else." He bowed and stepped back. Everyone, including Mr. Leroy, clapped.

"Thank you, Barry," Gooney Bird said. To the audience, she explained, "Mrs. Pidgeon has taught us all to use a dictionary. We have gotten very good at it, for second-graders, because we didn't underestimate ourselves.

"Underestimate? Beanie?" Gooney Bird said.

Beanie stepped forward. She stumbled a bit, because her hat was over her eyes. Then she righted herself, stood straight, and said, "Underestimate. To judge things as less than their real value." She curtsied, and whispered, "Like I underestimated the bigness of my hat."

The audience laughed and clapped. Gooney Bird continued the story.

After a while, Squanto got tired of being in England. It was noisy and everybody went shopping all the time. He was homesick. So he cajoled a sea captain into taking him back to America.

"Felicia Ann," Gooney Bird announced. Felicia Ann, her Pilgrim bonnet completely covering her eyes and nose, stepped forward shyly.

"Cajole. To persuade someone to do something, by flattery or gentle argument," she said in her small voice.

The audience clapped. Gooney Bird continued.

He traveled around for a while, being helpful because he was a helpful guy. He was an interpreter between the Americans and the Indians—

"Malcolm?" Gooney Bird said. "Interpreter?"

Malcolm unbent his green feather, straightened his headband, and wiggled his fingers the way he always did when he was nervous. He hesitated a moment, thinking. Then he said, "Interpreter. Someone who translates something from one language to another and helps people understand each other."

The audience clapped.

"Shhh," Malcolm told them, with his fingers to his lips. "Don't clap too loud."

But suddenly—

The children smiled in anticipation at the suddenly.

—a bad ship captain tricked him into going onto his ship. It was a big scam. They made him a captive and took him to Spain. The captives all were sold as slaves. It made Squanto pretty mad.

But he was indefatigable.

Gooney Bird grinned. "Tyrone?" she said.

Tyrone, his headband completely covered in beads and with two feathers attached, strutted forward proudly. "Indefatigable," he proclaimed. "Never showing any sign of getting tired!"

"Thank you, Tyrone," said Gooney Bird, after the applause. "I'm going to flash forward a bit now. That's a thing authors do."

After a long time Squanto finally made his way home. He had been away for years. And when he finally got home, he found that his village was gone. His people had all died. He was the last of his tribe.

It was very sad. But he became friends with the great chief Massasoit, and after a while he met the Pilgrims, who had just arrived. So he had some new friends and they hung out together.

The Pilgrims' lives in America would have been a fiasco if good Indians like Squanto had not helped them.

"Chelsea? Fiasco?"

Chelsea waved to her mother in the front row. "Fiasco. A total failure."

Chelsea curtsied, and gave a thumbs-up sign.

Gooney Bird finished her story.

Squanto had gotten lots of new clothes in England, and he had learned to dance.

The End.

Gooney Bird bowed, twirled in a circle, and did a small bit of hula.

"All of my story was absolutely true, except maybe the part about learning to dance, but I think he probably did," Gooney Bird said.

The audience rose to their feet, clapping and cheering. From the back of the room, when the applause quieted, the sound of babies crying came from the huge stroller. Malcolm pulled his headband down over his eyes and groaned.

"I have a couple more things to say," Gooney Bird announced. "The first Thanksgiving is a really good story because it tells about people becoming friends and being helpful to each other, and being thankful.

"So some of the second-graders want to say what they are thankful for. Nicholas?"

Nicholas said loudly, "The Muriel. I got to do the forest part. And Mrs. Pidgeon. She stretches our skills."

Next Gooney Bird said, "Keiko?"

"My family," Keiko said. "And Mrs. Pidgeon. She makes me smile."


Ben hopped up and down. "My fixed broken arm." He held it up. "And Mrs. Pidgeon. I like her songs. And she lets us change socks."

"One more," Gooney Bird said, "and then we can have our refreshments. Malcolm?"

Malcolm sighed. Slowly he walked forward. He looked toward the big stroller. "Okay, I guess I'm thankful for my triplets," he said after a moment. "Their names are Taylor, Schuyler, and Tierney, and two are boys and one's a girl but I don't know which is which.

"And I'm thankful for Mrs. Pidgeon because she is very calm, even when I'm not.

"And I'm thankful for the room mother because she brought cupcakes, and I'm hungry."

From the back of the room, a voice called out. "I didn't

Gooney Bird and the Room Mother

bring them. I provided them. There is a difference!"

Then, very slowly, an elderly woman stood, lifting herself up by the arms of her wheelchair. Next to her, a nurse reached out to steady the chair.

"Here is what I'm thankful for," the old woman continued. "I'm thankful that Gooney Bird Greene called me on the telephone and asked me to be room mother. I haven't been room mother for thirty-five years. I was room mother when my daughter Patsy was in second grade. It was fun then, and it will be fun now.

"And mostly I am thankful that Patsy became a teacher. It makes me proud."

She lifted one hand and waved to Mrs. Pidgeon, seated at the piano. Mrs. Pidgeon dabbed her eyes with a hanky and then waved back. "Hi, Mom," she said with a smile.

"And don't forget, Gooney Bird Greene, " the room mother said, "you promised me a special song."

Gooney Bird looked at Mrs. Pidgeon.

"Class?" Mrs. Pidgeon said, and played the first chord.

"Roooommmm Motherrrr," the children sang.


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