Pigtailed Girl Who Had Never Eaten Pizza

When I moved to Flint, Michigan, I was a country kid from the hills who had never eaten pizza. I had never been served at a restaurant or ordered food at McDonalds. I had never worn a store-bought dress or ridden a city bus. I had never watched a television show. And at school, that’s what seemed to matter most.

Television was big in 1963. Most people watched shows in black and white, but the families of cool kids had color sets. And everyone knew who had what. Furthermore, they knew I had neither.

So when they talked about Bewitched and Andy Griffith and I Spy, I had nothing to say. That was bad enough, but what I dreaded most was their talk about the new Beverly Hillbillies. This was a show about a family who struck oil back in the mountains and then moved to the city without knowing city ways.

After watching a few episodes at a friend’s house, I could tell this show poked fun at mountain ways. Did my new city friends, I wondered, think my grandma still back in the hills was like Granny on the show—sour, sharp-tongued, and always reachin’ for a gun?

As a kid, I didn’t like steeling myself for the next joke about Granny. It wasn’t fun having nothing to say about Peyton Place and missing innuendos about The Dick Van Dyke Show. But years later, remembering these embarrassing moments helped me teach.

When I welcomed students from Japan and Ukraine and Australia and Mexico into my classroom, when kids from the Deep South heard shouts of laughter the first time they called me ma’am, when those from homes without books struggled to read good literature—when all these students stood in front of me, I tried to remember the out-of-place, pigtailed girl in a long skirt who had never eaten pizza or watched a television show.

3 Replies to “Pigtailed Girl Who Had Never Eaten Pizza”

  1. I am reminded of my own exodus from Yoder School in the summer of 1964. When I began school that fall in Ephrata, PA my first encounter with potato sticks in the Fulton Street School cafeteria was a revelation of the wonders of ‘the outside world.’ They remain a snack that I enjoy! (My wife’s brother did eventually donate an old TV set to us after we were married about ten years — presumably thinking that a home without a TV was like a home without an indoor toilet!)

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  2. These remembrances of your childhood sparks vivid memories of my own. Although quite different, similar, in that my family in deep south Louisiana, did not have television, indoor plumbing, running water or electricity. Our time line similar while miles apart, and when I saw the show Beverly Hillbillies, I felt somewhat akin to your thoughts concerning my own family. Thank you for reminding me that our world is still small enough to fit in the palm of God, that we may come from varies parts of the world, but we really all are created beings experiencing life per our POV, and all with the same need to know and have an intimate relationship with the Creator of all, Yeshua!

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    1. I still feel this way when I listen to many podcasts, you tubers, and preachers. I have watched very little TV in my life and miss those illustrations! Hmmm, how to keep up with a modicum of popular culture and yet “keep the main thing the main thing!”

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