Excited giggles and laughter could be heard throughout the room. It had taken weeks to get there, but Sherry’s seventh grade Home-Ec class had finally moved into the kitchen – the six kitchenettes, actually – and the first assignment was scrambled eggs. Mrs. Stanton had demonstrated the whole process, but with everyone crowding around, Sherry hadn’t been able to see much. The teacher’s favored students had all pushed to the front, forcing Sherry back until all she could do was listen.
If you happen to be a misfit, a class full of 12 year old girls can be torment. Sherry’s social standing would be reinforced in this class where the teacher played favorites. The preferred ones picked up on that, of course, and found pleasure in keeping Sherry in her place.
To no one’s surprise, she was one of the left-overs when the work groups were chosen. Reluctantly, mean Kathy, shy Bonnie, and Sherry formed the final group. Kathy immediately decided to take charge.
“I’m doing the measuring and mixing. Bonnie, you have to wash the dishes, and Sherry can do the cooking.”
Sherry protested, “But I’ve never done any cooking!”
“Too bad for you. You are today.”
With that, Mrs. Stanton’s admonition rang in Sherry’s ears. “Getting scrambled eggs right takes a delicate hand. You have to know when to stir and when to stop. If the flame is too high, there is no redeeming it.”
“No wonder Kathy made me the cook. She won’t risk failure for the rest of the class to see. If I mess up, she can blame her bad grade on me. If she measures wrong, nobody will know except the three of us, because we’re the ones that have to eat the finished product.” She looked around the room. All the other groups were confidently forging ahead.
While Kathy measured and mixed, Sherry looked on and wondered, “I’ve watched Mom a lot. Maybe I can do this.” Memories of her mom working at the stove filled her vision. Sherry liked to watch, even though it often ended with Mom snapping, “Scoot. Get out of the way!”
An impatient elbow sent Sherry lurching sideways.
“I said move! You’re in my way.” Kathy set the mixing bowl down next to the stove. “Now it’s your turn, and you better not burn them. I don’t want a bad grade.”
Sherry took a deep breath, poured the eggs into the warm pan, then slipped the spoon in and began to stir. As she worked, she pictured her mom’s hands holding the spoon, pushing it through the creamy yellow mixture. Her Mom’s hands knew when to stir and when to stop. Her mom’s delicate hand knew how to get scrambled eggs just right.
“You need to stir those more,” demanded Kathy, but Sherry refused.
After plating them up, she carried them over and added them to the other dishes already awaiting the teacher’s critical eye. To Sherry’s surprise, there were some pretty sorry-looking eggs on display. Only two dishes looked appetizing to her, and Mrs. Stanton had the same opinion.
“Now, this plate looks pretty nice. I do see some brown on one side where it was overcooked, and that means they are going to be dry.” Then she turned to the other plate. “This is a lovely plate of scrambled eggs. They are light and fluffy, and just moist enough. In fact, these are the finest example of scrambled eggs I have seen. Which group did these?” She looked toward her favorites, certain it would be one of them.
Sherry, Annie, and Kathy raised their hands. Doubtful, the teacher’s bright smile faded away. “Who did the cooking?”
Sherry’s hand went up again. “I did.”
Mrs. Stanton’s face paled as if she had been insulted. With a sour expression on her face, she turned to the rest of the class. “You’ve all made a good effort. Go ahead and get these eaten so you have time to clean up.”
Sherry couldn’t help but see the disdain in the eyes of her classmates as they turned and walked away. She knew they weren’t about to let her one success change their opinion of her. Mrs. Stanton’s response had been cruel, yet, in the back of her mind, Sherry could hear her genuine words of praise. “These are the finest example of scrambled eggs I have seen.” Sherry smiled as she carried the garbage to the dumpster. “She said it and nobody can take that away from me.”
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