No, I’m not talking politics, I’m talking literally from the left side. That’s how I see life because I’m a lefty. And not just left-handed, but extremely left-handed. Don’t ask me to do much of anything with my right—it simply ain’t gonna happen. It’s not always easy being a lefty in a right-handed world.
I grew up during the time when old-fashioned school teachers thought that being a lefty was a bad thing. My first grade teacher thought it was just plain wrong, so she made me sit on my left hand and write with my right as I learned to form the alphabet. I did it. I was six and compliant to the point of passivity. What did I know? I had a problem and gracious Mrs. Carr was going to fix it for me. She’d stand behind me as I struggled with the fat pencil clutched in my right hand, creating awkward, ugly letters. “Don’t you switch,” she’d warn with a sharp tap on my shoulder, almost as if she sensed when I was about to give it up and go back to left-handed writing.
But writing with my right hand still felt wrong, even though I knew being a lefty was what was really wrong. So I practiced at home, sitting on my left hand, putting pencil to paper, and scrawling my letters. One evening, Mom passed by the table where I was working and stopped to stare at me. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Practicing my letters.”
“Why are you using your right hand?” She stooped over to gently remove the pencil from my tight grasp.
“Because the left one is wrong,” I replied. “I hafta learn to write with my right hand ′cause that’s how I’m ′posed to do it.”
“Who told you that?” Now she was sitting next to me, drumming the pink eraser end of the fat yellow pencil on the table in front of her.
“Mrs. Carr. ”
“She makes you sit with your left hand under your leg in class?” Mom’s cheeks were reddening—a sure sign that she was irritated.
“Yes.” I was getting scared. I didn’t want Mom mad at me too, so I said with six-year-old reasonableness. “It’s okay. I’m getting better at it.”
Mom just rolled her eyes, pulled my left hand from under my leg, and put the pencil between my fingers. “Do your letters with your left hand, honey. I’ll talk to Mrs. Carr.”
Later that night I heard her ranting on the phone to my grandfather about how incredibly stupid my teacher was. Poor Mrs. Carr was in for it now. You sure didn’t want my mom ticked off at you. The next morning she drove me to school. I sat in the front seat next to her feeling very small and worrying that Mrs. Carr was going to lose her job because I couldn’t write with my right hand. I asked Mom if she was going to get my teacher fired.
“No,” she replied, giving me a grin. “I’m going to ask her to let you be yourself, a freckled little lefty. No one has the right to change something essential to you. God created you a lefty and that’s the way you’re supposed to be. So don’t try writing with your right hand, do it with your left—it’s how you’ll do it best.”
I didn’t hear what was said to Mrs. Carr that morning. Mom pulled her out into the hallway and Mrs. Carr shut the classroom door. But when it came time to do our penmanship lesson later that day, Mrs. Carr strolled over to my desk, took my pencil from my right hand, and placed into my left. “Do it this way from now on.” she said, and moved on.
The following Sunday we had our usual after-church lunch at my grandparents. When I went into the kitchen to watch my grandfather cook, he offered me the spoon to stir the gravy. I accepted it with my left hand and as I began to stir the rich, thick sauce, he said, “You know, Nan, being a lefty is a special thing. Any fool can write or do things with their right hand, but it takes someone very special to be able to do things with their left.” He winked then and I felt warmth fill me up. Mrs. Carr was wrong. Being a lefty made me special…