We did not have many rules growing up, but we weren’t supposed to look in the top drawer of the file cabinet, the one next to the fireplace. There was no clear explanation ever given, but I did not argue. I couldn’t reach the top drawer anyway.
My mom had painted this cabinet black, red, and white to match the decor of the living room of our house in 1975. How excited she pretended to be when she had procured those red, round lamps. They matched the red cushion of the wicker swivel chair. I remember how she invited all the other housewives on Virgin Islands Court over to show them off. This was to send message to the world, or maybe to herself, that said, “Look, I can find home decorating fun, too.”
She still has those lamps. And the file cabinet is still there, too.
About halfway through another Brady Bunch episode, I banked on my mom forgetting this rule. It had been so long ago.
To my advantage, she was hammering away at her typesetter keyboard on the other side of the room (my mom and dad made and still make newspapers about cars), too engrossed to see me teetering on said wicker chair to peer inside only twenty feet away.
Straining to see over the edge of the drawer, I reached to run my fingers over the rough protruding edges of hundreds of manila folders, sending dust into the air, up my nose and into my eyes. They were all smashed into each other, obviously containing top secret information, such as carbon copies of letters home, floor plans of houses for sale, and my mom’s report card from the 3rd grade. Straight As.
The whirring from the type setting machine continued, I knew I was safe. I proceeded with opening files. The next interesting one said “IQ Test.”
What’s this? I delicately pulled the contents from the folder. I fought back a sneeze from the dust.
“Kelly, Katherine Ann,” it said at the top, with boring details, like our address in Livermore, my age, date of birth, blah blah, and one key data point that from then on would mark my life for good.
This document said that my IQ score was 170.
These results explained everything. No wonder I was doing so badly in school. It was too easy, just as I had always suspected. I wasn’t slow, like all my teachers had warned, but the opposite. I was too smart.
My hands trembled.
“What are you doing up there?” my mom screamed at me. In the thrill of my discovery, I did not notice that the buzzing of her machine had stopped. “I told you, that drawer is off limits.”
“Mom,” I cried. “Why didn’t you tell me!”
“Tell you what?”
“The IQ test.”
“Shit,” she said, lighting a cigarette. “You weren’t supposed to see that.”
“Mom, do you know what this means?” I fought backtears of vindication. “It means, I’m not an idiot. This proves it. Mom. I’m gifted.” I sighed.
She fumbled through her papers, muttering something incomprehensible.
“I can’t understand you. What are you telling me,” I said.
I had so many questions. Why would she keep me in this cursed public school system. Why would she deny me of an academic program that would challenge me and develop my character. Just how many years was I to practice balancing a checkbook, a skill that I knew would be come obsolete once on-line banking was developed, and while, true, we didn’t even have a Commodor 64 in 1980, knowing that balancing a checkbook would soon become a relic only demonstrates my superior mental aptitude. And this mimeographed document proved it.
“Okay, that might not be exactly accurate,” she said, quickly, taking a quick puff of her cigarette before resuming her typing. She types louder, now. With feeling. Aggression. I could barely hear her words.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“I might have, um. Cheated.”
Leafing through the pages, I saw that at the age of two I could easily recognize shapes and perform simple mathematical calculations and recite segments of the Gettysburg Address, something I’m sure any genius child could do.
“You mean I couldn’t recite the Gettysburg Address?”
“You can’t even do that now,” said my mom, stifling a cough and avoiding all eye contact with me.
I put the test back in its folder, and sat back down on the couch just in time to sing along with the Brady Bunch. When It’s Time To Change, Sha Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Sha Na Na Na Na. One of my favorites.
Still, one of us had to get 170 on that IQ test. One of us is a fucking genius.