I heard this story from child psychologist Ned Hallowell and, with his permission, turned it into a song. It is a tribute to one of his elementary school teachers. I have no idea if the real Mrs. Eldredge wore her glasses on a cord, but my mother did when she taught second grade, so into the song went that detail.
Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer produced this recording for me in February of 2007 which featured the great singer-storyteller Tom Paxton. (See the photo below.) It seems that this single is no longer available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.; I guess it is OK to share it here in place of the home-studio version that I have posted here from time to time.
© 2006 Steven E. Cutts
recorded and mixed (At Bias Studios, Springfield, VA) by Jim Robeson, 2007
Cathy Fink, guitar
Tom Paxton, vocal
Jim Robeson, bass
Lenny Williams, piano
The other kids in first grade were ahead of me when it came time for “Look, look, look, run, run, and see.”
Those stories about Dick and Jane seemed awfully simple, clear, and plain when they would read,
But when I tried, the words would all collide and twist and jumble as they pleased.
Our teacher Mrs. Eldredge was not young or thin; beneath her powdered cheeks she had a triple chin.
Plump and round as she could be; my mom politely said that she was “Heavy-set”
She peered at us through spectacles that sometimes dangled from a chain around her neck.
She seemed so stern; No question: you were in her class to learn!
But Mrs. Eldredge very quickly earned my gratitude and trust.
My classmates never quite got ‘round to teasing me, but I could feel them sitting there impatiently.
Those letters that to them made sense confused me and made me feel tense and want to cry,
I never quite got ‘round to tearing up, and there was a good reason why!
The time would arrive for reading group, and I’d feel terrified,
Then I’d calm down if I sat side-by-side Mrs. Eldridge’s arm.
If I was having trouble with the words that day, Mrs. Eldredge reached her arm around me, as if to say,
“Take your time; I know it’s hard, you’re just as smart as the others are, I have no doubt.”
That made me bold, the story would unfold, and words began to tumble out.
I’d really try; I’d lean against her and feel much less shy;
My confidence shot up surrounded by Mrs. Eldredge’s arm.
When summer came, I still was stumbling when I read. Away from school there was no comfy arm; instead
I’d take a deep breath and pretend I was inside of her arm again; that’s all it took.
The comfort of her arm is still a lucky charm : I make my living writing books!
The other kids in first grade were ahead of me
When it came time for “Look, look, look, run, run, and see.”