When I was in grade school back in the late 60s, I was an avid reader and a popular student. I fell in love with the Hardy Boy Mysteries, all sorts of comic books, and Dick and Jane. I loved the drawings, and the simple, repetitive lines like “See Spot Run” which we have all grown up saying.
We had a pet Afghan Hound named Igor at the time. Igor was great and loyal to me, but very mischievous and not particularly bright. But I loved him just the same, and we used to hang out together in the basement and I would do my homework there and read my books and comics.
I was so careful with my books, even those I just took out from the school or neighborhood public library, that I would sometimes put a brown paper bag book cover, or even one of those fancier, shiny laminated college emblem book covers on them back in those days (I was a bit of a nerd). While other kids would fold over the pages to indicate where they left off, I hated that and never would do that to a book. I would always use a paper bookmark for that.
One afternoon when I came home from school I went downstairs, did my homework, read some of Dick & Jane, slid my homework into the book, left it on the ping-pong table in the basement and went to bed. The next morning when I went downstairs to grab my stuff, I was freaked to find that sometime during that night, Igor had gotten to my favorite book and ripped the hard green cover off completely from the spine, and shredded most of the rest to bits, my homework included.
I remember the simple drawings of Dick, Jane, Spot, Baby (or Sally), Mother, Father, Puff the cat, and Tim the teddy bear were strewn all over the dark green shag carpet in that wood paneled, musty-smelling, track-lighting filled, Formica-built-ins basement room. And I started to cry. To be honest, I feel badly thinking back on it now, that from that point on I loved Igor just a little bit less than I had loved him before this incident. I really was unable to understand that this was not personal and that Igor didn’t do this “to me”, but it was just the way a poorly trained, mischievous hound sometimes behaves.
Nevertheless, that morning was horrible and Igor caused this crisis. While I was freaking out, my mother picked up the pieces of what was left of my homework and the book I loved so much, and put everything carefully into a clear Glad bag to take to school and give to my teacher.
As I got to class, I was never so nervous in all of my life. My dog really had eaten my homework and I wasn’t sure what the punishment was that I would receive.
Miss Lewis, my teacher was wonderful. She knew I was really nervous and upset about this whole thing, and she gave me a brand new copy of Dick & Jane, and even helped tape together my homework before giving me an “A for effort” because I was so diligent in bringing everything in to her in baggie.
Every time I see a Dick & Jane book, I think of Igor, of Miss Lewis, of Spot and Baby and Puff and am transported right back to that musty basement in my childhood home, as if I never left at all.