One of the stated purposes of this blog is to provide a place where we document some of things that we know about each other that our kids (and others) might not know. This is one of those experiences.
In the third grade I was in Rex Anderson's class. My former friend Travis was assigned to the class, but his mother didn't let him make it to the first day and had him assigned to another class. One of the principles that guided my parents was a belief that asking for an exception was tantamount to an assertion that you were more important than everyone else similarly situated. So, they left me in the class.
The third grade was a scary lesson on how a manipulative and slightly deranged man could abuse his power as a teacher. I have some lingering issues with 'Sexy Rexy', if you can't tell. Rex had the creepy habit of letting some of the kids (both boys and girls) sit on his lap as well as letting those same kids enter (and change) grades. I wasn't one of those kids. In fact, it was pretty clear that I was one of Rex's least favorites.
One manifestation of his disdain resulted in the defining moment that provided the title. One of Rex's activities was to have a sing-a-long time. The kids would gather in a semi-circle at the front of the room and then kids could get up and sing any song they wanted for the group. It was generally a voluntary activity. Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" was a favorite. Unlike some of my classmates, I avoided being center stage at nearly all costs. I still have a deep and abiding fear of public speaking. So, it was no surprise that I never volunteered to sing. One day, Rex decided it was my turn to sing. I tried as politely as possible to tell him that I didn't want to. Instead, he stood me in front of the class and made me say over and over, "I'm the Pineapple Capital of the World" as the other children laughed. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. It seemed to go on forever. Eventually, it got old and I was allowed to sit down.
Fortunately, it was the last activity of the day and afterwards I ran the short distance home. I managed to keep it together most of the way, but remember coming undone as I walked through the front yard before I even made it through the front door. I told my mother the story. She immediately called my father, who came straight home. I huddled in a corner in my parents' room, doing my best to get it back together, when my dad arrived. He asked me to tell him the story, and I did my best to tell my side of it through the stammering.
My dad's response was surprising: "What do you think it means, that you're the Pineapple Capital of the World?"
I responded, "I don't know."
"Yes, you do. Think about it. What does that mean?" came my father's reply.
"That I'm Hawaiian?" I guessed.
"That's right. Are you ashamed of being Hawaiian?"
"Then don't let it bother you. The next time he makes you do that, get up in front of the class and say it proudly."
That realization was life changing. Several days passed. Maybe it was weeks. That interval is a blur, but I clearly remember that the next time we had sing-a-long time, a knot was building in my stomach as we gathered around the semi-circle. Sure enough, Rex called me back up for a repeat performance. With a confidence that belied my fear, I belted out, "I am the Pineapple Capital of the World." It was immediately apparent that the shaming effect was lost on me this time and Rex had me sit down almost immediately. As I sat down, a feeling of pride and accomplishment welled up in me.