Vanity License plates are meant to say something about the driver.
When I see GR8TFUL on a Corvette parked in front of a house in my neighborhood, I know the owner appreciates being able to have such a car.
And IPROSPER on a BMW stopped at a light in front of me, I know tells me the driver is a shallow show-off.
That Nissan I often find myself driving behind on my daily commute, the one with HAILE MARY, it tells me Mary’s driving, and makes me wonder if she’s religious or a football fan.
And then there‘s the plate I saw in the Home Depot parking lot last Saturday – FUSCO5
All I knew was my mind felt like this.
When the silent scream ended, I laughed and shook my head. Wow, I thought, after all these years. Fusco – shudder
It was my first year of teaching. Third Grade. Like your first love, your first class stays with you forever. However, some students stand out more than others. Mulligan will always be remembered in bold type.
For some reason, the students never used his first name. I could understand it if it were high school, but there were eight year olds, except for Mulligan. He was nine, having repeated first grade.
He had big blue eyes, brown hair that protested with an ever-present cowlick, and cheeks punctuated with dimples. The dimples got deeper and the eyes rounder whenever he smiled his goofy grin – which was often, usually accompanying his two signature responses :“I dunno” or “It wasn’t me.” If you ever wondered what Homer Simpson was like as a child, wonder no more.
Mulligan had a way of rocking back and forth, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Today, such a trait might set off an autism alarm, but Shawn presented none of the traits. The rocking was just Mulligan being Mulligan. Some people hum. Some people whistle. Mulligan rocked……..
…..And it was infectious. The school day officially started with the Pledge of Allegiance. The children would rise and stand in the aisle next to their desks. Mulligan had the third desk in the second row, and that meant two kids in front of him and five behind. By the time we got to Liberty and Justice for all. The two in front of him were standing still, but the five behind were swaying to Mulligan’s tune.
I was negotiating all the pitfalls a young teacher meets in her first year. September: establishing classroom rules; October: keeping my bulletin board current – down came the welcome to third grade, up went falling leaves and jack-o-lanterns. Autumn brought nippy weather and I set up an orderly routine for hanging up and retrieving jackets and sweaters.
Autumn also brought the elections – and that’s when I got broadsided.
I don’t mean Nixon and Humphrey. We talked about presidential duties and I assigned at least a cursory glimpse of the debates for homework. No, my downfall was Fusco!
Who was Fusco – I dunno.
What was he running for I dunno. Probably Councilman or State Senator.
If ‘d had more experience I would have recognized a teachable moment, one to explore local government and our chance to choose leaders in our own neighborhoods, but, alas, all I knew about Fusco was that Mulligan had discovered a bottomless pit of Elect Fusco buttons. Each morning he’d show up with pockets-full of the %$#!! things which he ‘d hand out to anyone who’d take them. “Vote for Fusco,” he’d say.
By the third or fourth day when everyone had three or four buttons and they were becoming a distraction. I threatened to confiscate the buttons if I saw them in class. I told him he’d have to do his campaigning on his own time – at lunch recess. Big Mistake. By the next day, Vote for Fusco Fever had spread through the school population; Elect Fusco sprouted on boys jackets, attached itself to girls’ school bags.
After a week the buttons stopped proliferating. Or so I thought. You see, a little brother has an innate sense for appreciating the annoyance he can bring out in an older sister, Mulligan was experienced. He had two older sisters, the oldest just a couple of years younger than I. As for me, I, too, was experienced, my youngest brother was but two years older than Mulligan. So I recognized Mulligan’s talent. He’d saved a few more buttons, about a week’s worth. He’d greet me each morning with that smile and those innocent eyes.
“Good Morning, Ms Fair,” he’d say, holding out a button. “Vote for Fusco.”