Sister Carmel Mary passed out states from her tall handled wicker basket like chocolate bars on Halloween. The names weren’t called out by her beautiful lyrical voice which was her usual style of assignment. This day she wrote names on little pieces of paper. Each word represented a single state in the United States of America. My seat was half way down row three and I remember standing behind Eva Yamamoto as we made our way up to the teacher’s desk. Eva’s gorgeous long black hair swayed down from side to side as she glided up the isle in front of me to Sister’s desk. I watched as Eva put her hand into the basket of names written on folded writing paper. Don’t be California, I was praying, save California for me, please God, save California for me! Eva turned and smiled at me, then it was my turn to know my fate. Sister Carmel Mary nodded at me with her cherubic smile and said “good luck Susanna” as I dipped into the diminishing pile. I held onto my paper assignment until I reached my desk. Once there, I slowly began to unfold the buff colored lined paper. I squinted my eyes so that I could barely see through them as I viewed the word Montana. Montana? You’ve got to be kidding me. MONTANA? I was mortified. What? Me? Write a report on Montana? Why do I have to write a report on a state filled with horses and cows, more cows than people, and not very interesting people at that. Montana has nothing to do with sunshine, the ocean, flowers, movie stars, or anything fun and interesting like Disneyland which of course at that time was my favorite place on earth.
Montana it was though, and no amount of pleading or arguing or begging would change the words on the paper. Sister Carmel Mary’s method of assigning states was her way of being fair and all of my inner moaning and complaining and sniveling wasn’t going to change the word Montana on the tiny piece of paper now crumpled up in a ball inside my sweater pocket. When I arrived home that day I collapsed onto my twin size bed with the hand made quilt cover and let out an exasperated sigh. I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in Montana. I shall put this project off for as long as possible. I’m not going to do it, and she can’t force me to. Besides, I have two whole months to get it done if I decide to do it at all. So, it can wait. I rolled off my bed with a grunt, shuffled my feet to the front door and headed out to play.