Now he was in second grade. Mrs. Dodge didn’t think everything Preston did was great. She fussed about his penmanship and she was always pushing him to do his best work. She said she was trying to prepare him for adulthood. Preston asked his mom what that was. She said it was a grownup. Preston thought Mrs. Dodge should have just said that.
Before the beginning of the holiday, Mrs. Dodge gave a writing assignment that was due when they returned to school. The assignment was to write an essay entitled My Holiday. Preston hated writing essays.
After they fed the horses, they went to the kitchen for a huge breakfast made by the best cook in the world—Grandmother. Preston’s favorite breakfast was pancakes. Grandmother would mix up a big batch of pancake batter and leave it on the countertop to ‘rest’.
“Why does the pancake batter have to rest? It doesn’t do any work.” Preston asked one morning.
Grandmother laughed. “Well, it’s not exactly resting. That’s just what we call it. It is actually getting tighter so it makes better pancakes.”
Preston didn’t understand that any better than resting, but he decided not to ask any more questions.
After the pancake batter rested or tightened, Grandmother would ask everyone what kind of pancakes they wanted. Preston always said, “blue eyes, please.” Grandmother would laugh and say “pretty blue eyes, like yours.” Preston knew they were blueberries, but he liked to hear his grandmother to talk about his blue eyes.
Grandmother would pour a ladle of pancake batter on a hot griddle. The griddle would sizzle loudly. Immediately the pancake started puffing up like a cloud. Then Grandmother would take a few blueberries and put them on top of the pancake cloud. When she put it on Preston’s plate, he poured rich syrup on top and ate until his belly was sticking out.
It was the end of the week and Preston’s bags were packed. He wasn’t ready to go home. He tried telling his mother that Grandfather could teach him everything he needed to know, but she said he had to go to school. Preston was sad on the way home.
“Okay, young man.” Mom said after dinner. “I know you had a good time at Grandfather’s, but tomorrow is a school day. So go chose the clothes you want to wear and then jump in the shower. You need to be in bed earlier tonight.”
Preston was in the shower when he remembered his writing assignment. His heart had a moment of fear as he thought about it. How was he going to do that assignment tonight? He dried off, dressed in his favorite pajamas, and went straight to his desk to write.
He wrote quickly:
I went to see my grandparents. I helped on the ranch. I ate good pancakes. I had fun. I came home.
He wrote his name at the top and put it in his school bag.
The next morning he walked into his classroom. The kids were happy to see each other. When class started, it was hard for them to settle down and listen to the teacher. Mrs. Dodge gave them a few minutes to calm down, and then she asked for their writing assignments. Preston passed his paper to the boy sitting in front of him. Each child passed their paper to the front of the row. Then Mrs. Dodge taught reading class. After math and science class, it was time for gym class, Preston’s favorite. They played dodge ball. Preston’s team lost, but it was still fun.
When they went back to class, their writing assignments were lying on their desks. Preston’s paper had a big red F written on it. He didn’t know what to do. He had never failed in school before. He wanted to cry, but second graders don’t cry at school.
Preston made it home and into his bedroom before he started crying. Suddenly there was a knock at his door. His mother opened the door and asked, “What’s wrong, Preston? You never run to your room like this. Why are you crying?”
“Mrs. Dodge wrote an F on my writing assignment.”
“What was the assignment?”
“Write about My Holiday, and I did that. I told her what I did on Grandfather’s ranch.”
“Did you do your best writing?”
Preston thought about that for a while. He knew he hadn’t done a good job on the paper, but he didn’t think it would be a failing grade. “No, I didn’t do my best.”
“Preston, it doesn’t matter what grade Mrs. Dodge writes on your paper. If you didn’t do your best, you failed yourself. There is no bigger failure than failing yourself. You should be proud of everything you do. Now are you really proud of that paper? You think about that for a while.” Mom walked back out of the room and closed the door.
Preston sat on his bed for a few minutes, and then he went to his desk. He wrote another essay about what he did on his holiday. This time he made sure he was proud of the assignment.