Just for fun, I will periodically be sharing some of my childhood stories. I’ll label this down and dirty information “The Real Les.” The first in this series takes place when I was in elementary school. My legal name is Leslie and that is what my mother called me when I was young. In the old days a male called Les was either Leslie or Lester. Today I go by Les otherwise people might think I am a girl!
By the time I started the first grade my long blonde curls were gone. I was quiet and shy (would you believe that?). I never raised my hand and only spoke when the teacher asked me a question.
In the first parent-teacher conference of the year, the teacher praised me. “Leslie is such a nice boy. He’s so attentive and always has a smile. I don’t understand how he does it … all of the children around him are so disruptive; yet, he doesn’t say a word.” My mom was pleased.
As the semester ended, the teacher wasn’t so complimentary. “Mrs. Cochran,” she started, then paused “I don’t know what to say.” Mom frowned. “I’ve discovered the culprit of the disturbances around Leslie.”
“Oh,” mom said.
“Leslie is the instigator.”
Mom paused then smiled. “I’m not surprised.”
In the third grade I scored lots of points with other parents by playing the lead role in the school play. I said my lines perfectly. Mom was so proud.
At the intermission, the lady next to her asked, “Don’t you just love that little girl? I wonder why she is wearing brown crepe-paper hair.”
Mom bit her lip unwilling to share that little girl was her son.
In the fifth grade I demonstrated new skills. Even though I was the shortest boy in the class, I ran the fastest and could catch the ball better than anyone else. My new teacher had noticed that. But the parent-teacher conference that year was not about my athletic ability.
Mrs. Earhardt questioned, “Has Leslie had a learning problem in the past?”
Mom spoke slowly. “He seems to understand things but he’s always been a little slow. In his last school he was in the bluebird group.”
“Did they have tracking?” the teacher asked.
“Yes,” mom admitted. “The Cardinals were the brightest group. Robins were the average kids. And Bluebirds were a little slower.” (They’re now called special education.)
“How many schools has he attended?” the teacher asked.
“This is his eleventh school in four different states,” mom said, apologetically. “We traveled a lot during the war.”
“Interesting,” Mrs. Earhardt said. “I’ve never seen a Bluebird with his kind of athletic ability. Would you mind if I do a little research on him?”
“Of course, if I can help please give me a call.”
A few weeks later Mrs. Earhardt called. “Mrs. Cochran,” she started then paused. “Leslie can’t read!”
Mom sat motionless; she didn’t say a word.
“I’ve analyzed his scores closely. He almost ways gets 100% of spelling words right and all of his addition and subtraction problems are correct. I figure he memorizes the words and the math tables. The giveaway was his poor scores in storybook math problems and social studies.”
“What do we need to do?”
“You’ll have to get him special tutoring. He’s too far behind to catch up in school.”
And so, my mom did. She took a part-time job for the next two years to pay for tutoring (two afternoons a week after school and Saturday mornings) for the next two years.
* * * *
Today I’m a former university president who’s become a “steamy” novelist . . . can you believe it?
~ Book Signing Event: Sunday, October 26, 5-7 pm. Front Street Grill, Beaufort, NC ~