This week, Chris Fuqua shares his Inheritance Books.
Hi Chris, welcome to the blog. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I attended a rural elementary school in the 1960s. The third grade teacher, a crone by the name of Campbell, lived down to every expectation one might define as the worst in professional educators. Yet, despite her delight in beating kids in the back with a thick paddle and denying them bathroom breaks until they wet themselves which also brought out the paddle, she recognized in some a talent for reading and placed those few into a special group, perhaps believing she could punish them further by challenging them with books above their grade level. I was one of the lucky chosen and thus able to escape the classroom into fantasies where everyone lived happily ever, but sometimes the reading proved a little too challenging.
She sounds awful! Which book have you inherited from your parents/grandparents? Why is it special?
My uncle and aunt celebrated education, and when they discovered my penchant for reading and the occasional difficulty I encountered in higher level material, they presented me with one of the most important books I’d receive or inherit from anyone, the Webster’s New World Dictionary. I wore out that book by referencing new words encountered in reading and by browsing it to expand my vocabulary. In time, the book fell apart from use, but thanks to my uncle and aunt’s keen generosity, I soared in the reading group.
That same third-grade year presented me with a second influential book, one that helped establish a foundation for my sense of humor, providing a laugh or two while surviving those days of Mrs. Campbell’s skewed reality. Bought through the Weekly Reader service, Robert Blake’s 101 Elephant Jokes contained some of the silliest jests known to humankind.
Kids forced to face a demonic teacher each day need to laugh to realize the world is not an evil place, only home to a few evil people who, despite their wicked nature, may lead them to good things. And that book—one I’ll surely place in my inheritance box just before saying ta-ta to this plane—is still on my shelf, providing a chuckle or two when times get rough. Despite her evil, I’m indebted to Mrs. Campbell. Even as afterlife flames surely leap up around her like the forest fire igniting the stamping duck of elephant jokes, perhaps her soul can find solace—or, more likely, irritation—in how she inadvertently led some students to discover refuge in words and strength in humor.
Thanks for sharing your Inheritance Books, Chris. I love the idea of leaving a joke book to future generations.