The Blue Ribbon Pig

Blue ribbon pigFour years old

I was sitting on the floor with my back against the wall, silently raging.  I didn’t know anything about, God, but if I would have, I’d have filed a complaint, for sure!  What’s wrong with these people?  

If I was my sister, I would read me a book, see?

If I was my other sister, I would also read me a book, especially when I asked, nicely.

My little brother was a baby. Useless, for my purposes.

If I were my mother, of course I would read me a book. But she liked her own books and my sisters knew this. They knew she did not like little kid books. Why won’t they read me my books! 

I was good and pissed off.  Even my one sister, who would speed-read through one of my books, sometimes, just to stop my incessant begging, refused. She also warned me if I asked her again, she would quit reading to me, permanently.

I thought she might mean it, because I am annoying, but I also didn’t blame myself, because, hey! If I could read, I would read to any little girl who asked.  Especially, my little sister! What am I missing here?

The more time I spent trying to figure out why no one would help me, the madder I got, but this time I got mad at myself, because why can’t I solve this problem?  Why can’t I get them to do what I want?

Eventually, I realized this problem was beyond me so I decided to something much easier. I decided to learn to read, instead. To hell with them, okay?

I learned to read, quickly.  I think it was because my sister would read, tracing the words with her finger. Apparently, I was absorbing, because I taught myself to read, right away.  I learned so fast, I wasn’t positive I was really reading. I thought I might be faking it, but I had no idea how to tell.

Initially, no one noticed I no longer asked to be read to.  But eventually one of my sisters could not ignore her little sister, sitting on the floor in the corner, with a stack of books and no problem at all.

“Elsa, what are you doing? Are you reading?” she demanded.

I just looked at her. I thought I might be reading but I wasn’t sure so I stared.

“Elsa! Look at me! Are you reading? Have you taught yourself to read? she asked.

I refused to answer on account of I don’t like being wrong. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was trying to figure it out, but hadn’t. That’s what I was doing!

“Elsa, if you can read, you better tell me!”

Poker face.

“Gimme that book,” she said, grabbing the book in my hand. She pointed to a sentence. “What does that say?!”

I wanted to tell her my guess, but I didn’t want to be stupid so I just stared.

“You can read, can’t you?”

“Maybe,” I said, hedging my bet.

“Don’t you want know?”


“Well what does that say?  Tell me what it says and I’ll tell you if you can read.”

“Blah, blah, blah and blah, I think,” I said.

“That’s right,” she said. My heart leaped.

“Read this one,” she said, pointing to another sentence.

I rattled off the words I thought were correct and she announced that I could in fact read.

I immediately wondered if I would get a blue ribbon, like the kind they give a pig when the pig is great! I’d read a book about a prized pig, see, and I was also special, as you can see. This means, I get a ribbon, right? Instead, my sister yelled, “Mom!!! Elsa can read!”

My mother called bs on this.  “No, Elsa cannot read!”

“She can read, mom. She just did it, she really can read.  She’s in here reading by herself” she yelled back.  “Come with me,” she said. “Let’s go tell mom you can read.” I stood up and followed her into the kitchen.

“She’s reading, mom.”

“She is not reading. Elsa cannot read. There’s no way she can read.”

“She’s reading.”

“She is not reading. She’s memorized the books!”

When she said that, I became very concerned.  Was she right? I was never sure I could read, in the first place, now my sister says I can’t and my mom says I can’t. My brain went back and forth, because I have Libra.

“Don’t worry, Elsa. I know you can read. I saw you do it and I know how smart you are. They (parents) have no idea what you can do.  Do you know that?”

Well no, I don’t know that. That was big sister stuff, out of my league so I stared at her, dumbly.

“Elsa, don’t worry. I know you can read and we’ll prove it!’

Now how are we going to do that, I wondered, since I was probably faking reading, anyway.  My sister, who was a lot smarter than me, explained. “The next time we go to the library, we’ll get a book you’re never had before. You can read to mom, then she’ll have to believe you.”

I figured the chance of me pulling this off was very slim and possibly impossible, unless I could actually do it. But I agreed with the plan, because hey! I like to advance!

The next Saturday, we went to the library, as always. My sister chose a foreign book, which I checked out along with two of my favorite books, maxing out the three-book limit for four-year-olds, which I thought was unfair. My mother could get as many books as she wanted and it made no sense. I liked books as much as she did!

I climbed in the backseat with my sister and brother, wondering when I would have to perform.  Er…now?

“Well, do it.  Read the book,” my sister said, sitting next to me, on the ride home.

Poker face.

“Why aren’t you doing it? Go on! Read the book!”

I gave her a dirty look, because why doesn’t she shut up?

“Elsa, read it! Open the book and read it! I know you can read it so open that book and read it for mom so she knows you can read books now.”

Well, I thought I was going to pee my pants, but I also thought I better do this. I mean, I did agree to this test and my Grandpa said I should always keep my word. I cracked open the book and was instantly thrilled because I recognized all the words on the page.

I started reading, with my sister crowing about how she was right. It didn’t bother me, because I felt like I was flying through the air, with words coming out my mouth!

It got quiet in the car as I read the entire book on the way home without missing a word. I  was definitely a Blue Ribbon Pig. Knowing this, I started making plans, right away.


I’d been begging my mother to let me go to school for months and months. She would not allow this, for no good reason. Now that I was a Blue Ribbon Pig, she was going to have a harder time denying me, right?

Do you know the Blue Ribbon Pig is up on a stand, with rays of light coming out of them? You just don’t make a pig like that stay at home all day, with a baby!

“So mom. Now that I can read, can I go to school?”

“Shut up, Elsa. How many times have I told you no! No, you cannot go to school. NO. SCHOOL! You are too young; I’ve told you over and over, a million times.”

“Well that was before I could read. If I can read, I should go to school!”

“Yes, yes. You can read! So read! Go read your books and leave me alone!”

“I already read my books!”

“Read ‘em again!”


“When you get to school, you can do that.”

“Right!  So can I go to school, tomorrow?” She was exasperated.

“Elsa, you are four years old! You can go to school when you’re six. You’re not even close. Now leave me alone or I’ll tell your father how you bothered me all day.”

That shut me up. The last thing anyone wanted was to see my father upset. I retreated, never intending to give up.

My grandpa was coming over. I’d talk to him about this. He was not afraid of my father or anything else. Plus he was smarter than I was and he believed in education. Sure enough, I got him to advocate for me.

“Well have you considered it?” he asked, my mother. “Maybe she can start this next year.”

“She’s four!” my mother, exclaimed.

“She’ll be nearly five by then, and she can read…”

My grandpa was not successful but he did advance my cause in that he was an adult who did not think my idea was stupid. This is when I decided to annoy my mother to such an extent; she would send me to school to get rid of me.

I don’t know what to tell you. Other than my baby brother and I, every kid on our block went to school. This left me sitting in my room, to look out the window and pine for more worldly experience. It was that but also, the situation made no sense!

I didn’t want to be at home and they didn’t enjoy me there either. My mother had four girls before having a boy. She loved my brother over the moon; if I could go to school, everyone’s life would improve, dramatically. I intended to push until I got my way.

At some point, my father got involved. “Can you read this?” he asked, handing me newspaper.

Well, no! I can’t read the newspaper. I read kid’s books with big print! I stood there with the paper in my hand, shaking.

“You think you’re a big deal, show us how big a deal you are. Read the paper!”

I stood there, scared, feeling defeated. You really don’t want my father, confronting you. “Goddamnit, Elsa, read the fuckin’ paper!”

No response. I couldn’t think of one.

He pointed to the headline on the front page. “Can you read this? What does this say?”

I was out of my body, but I thought I knew. I mean, I had a good guess, so I fumbled out the words and his eyes opened, wide. “Well, son of bitch! You did it! That was right! Can you read the article?”

Is he crazy? Hell no, I can’t read the article. The print was tiny and the words are for adults.

How am I supposed to read the newspaper? I just want to go to first grade, where there will be lots of books and flashcards and stuff. I can’t read the paper, you fool!

circus dog“Goddamnit, Elsa, read it. I want to see just how good a reader you are. I want know, so do what I say and read the fuckin’ article, right now!”

He was going to backhand me, if I didn’t try, so I held the paper up to read it. “Right here,” he said, indicating the first sentence of the front page story. Shaky and terrified, I was stunned when I recognized most of the words. I mumbled them out, not understanding the meaning of the words, at all.

“Motherfucker,” my father said. “The boys at work have got to see this. I’m taking you to work with me tomorrow. When we get there, I want you to show everyone how you can read… just like you did right there…”

He was serious and I was scared. I didn’t actually read the paper, you know. I read words about something going on in the world that was way beyond me. Why can’t I just go to first grade!?

Later, in our bedroom, one of my sisters said, “I’m sorry you have to go with him tomorrow. I know you’re scared but I don’t think he’s going to hurt you. He just wants to use you like a circus dog,” she said.

“What?” I asked. I was a Blue Ribbon Pig and did not get this at all.

“Well, he seems happy anyway. Maybe if you do this for him; let him show you off for his friends, he’ll like you more.  It might be good, Elsa.”

“He doesn’t like me?”

“He doesn’t like any of us. I’m just saying, he looked happy about your reading. So just go; I think you’ll be all right.”

The next day, I went to work with my father. A bunch of men gathered around the shop floor and my father handed me the paper.

I panicked, momentarily because it was the current day’s paper.  If you can read one, can you read the other? How come my father doesn’t think of things like this?  Shouldn’t he have given me the same paper; the one I managed to fake read?

I read the new paper, and I think the men clapped. I didn’t care because I was trying to get to school and this wasn’t even close.

This also began my father’s habit of taking me all kinds of places, over the course of many years. This included taking me to the hospital one time, after he nearly beat me to death. He was quirky like that.

Skip to: School, But Wait!  There’s A Knock At The Door!

8 thoughts on “The Blue Ribbon Pig”

  1. The way you tell these stories Elsa.. wow, so engaging and they help me heal some of my own layers. Thanks for sharing. ❤️

  2. Thank you for sharing this memory. I really love your writing. I can’t remember much of my childhood but I don’t think I even want to.

  3. Avatar
    Catherine Dougherty

    Elsa! You absolutely rock! Your writing style and ability to form your story makes anything you write so engaging. It brings us the readers into the reality of your story! Encore! Encore!

    1. Thank you. Aside from the client, giving me this idea:

      Recently, I become even more deeply disgusted with the stories out there, which all seem contrived. Stories are by far the best way to learn. Jupiter! But you can’t find any actual truth anywhere and I’m thinking, I should quit bitching and try to offer an alternative.

      This is also a Saturn in Pisces experiment. You can learn by osmosis. Learn what?

      What to do, what not to do, how what you do might affect your kids, how siblings functions, astrological patterns in families and one and on.

      For example, I am a Mars Mercury kid. I’m reading in the car, and think I’m soaring, in my 9th house. I have an IMAGINATION and I think my own thoughts!

      This is part of this:

      I beg everyone, if you have even the tiniest ability to do so; find your true self and live that.

  4. I love this!

    I could read before first grade and I was incredibly pissed with those Dick and Jane books!

    Keep writing, Elsa, I love your stories!

  5. thanks so much for sharing your stories here for us to read ^^ It’s very astrologically interesting too!
    i can somewhat see insight on even the behaviours of your family members and yourself (mercury/mars learning and teaching yourself 9th) and how your sister (sagittarius influenced) announces and wants the truth be out. And not sure about your mother, because she seemed particularly fixed, (double aquarius with mars scorpio) about her stance on you not going to school. But particularly interesting is the behaviour and interest of your father’s Aquarius stellium, wanting to show off, the “smarts” of your talent. and his pisces mars wanting motivation and praise from others. needing that energy.

    keep up the writing!

    1. Yes to all. My Leo opposing his Aquarius.
      We are also the only people in the family in the family with Libra… he partnered me, really, from then on.

      You would not believe the places he took me and the things I witnessed. I doubt I can get that all written – I just don’t think there is enough time in the day / time in the rest of my life. It was like the movie, Paper Moon, but infinitely darker and suprising.

      My oldest sister is a double Sadge. We all blurt. The sister helping me is actually a Pisces, but she has an Sagittarius moon, exactly conjunct Jupiter.

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