Being a child who took everything literally and one with an imagination, I saw a head rolling onto the floor, with a tongue hanging out. I was never so scared in all my life. I felt my hands getting sweaty and my heart was racing. I looked at the door of the classroom, hoping someone was coming to rescue us from this awful person who was supposed to be our teacher. I thought there had to be some mistake — teachers were kind, helpful people who were there to help children learn, right? I was paralyzed with fear.
I don’t remember how I got through that school day, but I do remember telling Mem what Mrs. Takacs said when I got home that day. Mem tried to assure me that Mrs. Takacs was just saying that so we would behave. I wasn’t so sure.
Years later, when I read Roald Dahl’s book Matilda to my sons, I recognized my second-grade teacher for who she was — Mrs. Trunchbull! I thought Roald Dahl must have had her for a teacher himself.
It was in second grade that the individual photo of me came about that wasn’t supposed to happen, at least not by Amish standards. On the morning of “picture day” my mother said, “Now if they insist that you need to be in the class picture, that’s okay.” I knew this was Mem’s way of saying, “I really don’t mind you taking pictures, but I can’t tell you it’s okay, because it’s not the Amish way. When I got to school, and the other children were lining up to go to the gym for pictures, Mrs. Takacs said, “Saloma, since you aren’t having your picture taken, you can stay in the classroom.” I popped up out of my seat and said, “But my mother said I could be in the class picture!” She ignored me, so I got in line with the other children, and when it was my turn, I climbed up on that stool and grinned my toothless smile into the lights and the camera.
Years later, after I’d left the Amish, I went back to the school I had attended, and asked if they had any pictures left from those days. She sent me to where the records were being kept. Someone pulled out my second-grade record, and there in the top left-hand corner was this picture of me — only 1 inch by 2 inches big. I explained to the keeper of the records that I had no other pictures of myself and asked that I be allowed to borrow it. She did allow it, so I had a photographer reproduce and enlarge it.
Recently, when David and I were talking about this, we realized that I was smiling into the future when I got up on that stool. This image used to be on every loaf of bread and pie and package of cookies I sold when I was a professional baker. Now it is on the cover of my book. Little did I know then…