When I was in 4th grade I went to a wonderful neighborhood school called Groveland Elementary. You know the school in the movie “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie watches Flick stick his tongue to the frozen flag pole on a dare? That school is identical to the school where I attended late elementary. We lived across the street and my sister and I would walk to school. I was a crossing guard in 6th grade.
But anyways, back to 4th grade. Every Friday we had Art. It was my favorite subject. One Friday our assignment was to make a Family Crest of Arms. I had no idea what that was supposed to be. Our family was barely above our trailer park relatives (I’m sure one of them is The Missing Link)! We were a rag-tag band of nobodies! We weren’t royalty. So apparently I had the freedom to reinvent our family identity on this Crest of Arms.
The teacher passed out mimeographed copies of a shield shape printed on cardstock. The shield was divided into several sections. In one section we were instructed to draw our family. I labored over detailed likenesses of my mom, my dad, my little sister, myself, and our cat. In another section we were to draw a picture of a place that was special to our family. I drew Des Moines, Iowa because my grandparents lived there. In the third section we were to depict a characteristic or a moral that our family valued. (This was in the days when we still said the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the flag every day and the word “moral” wasn’t a dirty word yet.) I drew a picture of a church with a cross on the top of it. In the final section we were to make a drawing describing a goal or a dream or a plan that our family had for the future. I honestly don’t remember what I drew here. Maybe it was us going to DisneyWorld or something. I don’t remember.
Underneath the shield was a ribbon shape where we were instructed to write our family motto. In my best 4th grade cursive I carefully wrote “Nobody said life would be easy.” I had heard my parents say this about a million times in my short 9 years of life. My family was at the head of the class in Life’s School of Hard Knocks. My parents taught me by example that when life knocks you on your duff, you pick yourself up, dust off your pants, and you keep marching on. Expect no hand-outs. Expect no simpathy. You are not entitled to a cushy ride. We all have our own set of burdens to bear so it’s best to bear them nobly and get on with it. Nobody said life would be easy.
My teacher must have displayed our artwork somewhere in the classroom, I don’t remember specifically. But my parents came home from Parents’ Open House with smirks playing around the corners of their mouths. They asked me where on earth I got the idea that “Nobody said life was easy” was our family motto. I told them, “Mom says that to me all the time!” They both burst out laughing, laughed until the tears flowed, and my mom finally caught her breath enough to admit that, yes, it’s true. So from that point on, we have been very clear about where our family stands on this issue. It is, after all, our family motto. Nobody said that life would be easy.