Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Big Fat Guy

January, 2010

Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived (a.k.a. The Mel Ryane Story)

"This is a true story about a big fat guy and his six sad wives. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, was Queen Elizabeth's mom. When little Elizabeth was only two years old, Henry ordered Anne beheaded."

I held up a picture of jolly old Henry VIII and his six women. The kids jumped out of their seats, eager to see this guy.

"What's that—be—" Ellie asked.

"It means he had her head cut off."

"Really, Ms. Ryane?" Garth asked. "Like her head cut right off?" And he made a gesture across his throat with his index finger.

"I'm afraid so, Garth, chopped right off. And does anyone know why?"

Lizzie leapt high, hand in air. "Because no baby boys!"

"That's exactly right, Lizzie, you remembered from last year. King Henry wanted a son and though he finally had one, that baby was very sickly. Henry could do whatever he wanted because he was the king. He also ate whatever he wanted."

"Like what, Ms. Ryane?" Dominick asked.

Dominick had already informed me he'd forgotten his lunch that day and was about to lose it if he didn't get a snack soon. I wasn't sure of the veracity of this tale and urged him to wait like the others.

"Well, you know if we have a special dinner there would probably be three courses. An appetizer, the main entree and then dessert. King Henry's regular meal consisted of twenty-four courses. He became such a fatty that a special cart had to be made and his servants had to wheel him around the castle."

I held up a picture book and show them Henry and his exhausted servants. This got them hysterical and had Dominick crazy for the snack.

"Really, Ms. Ryane...I might faint or something....I need food."

"Can you wait just a little longer? We'll have our snack later."

After a few more pleas I figured he was for real and gave Dominick an orange. I later found out from his father that he had indeed forgotten his lunch, and with low blood sugar anything could happen.

"Now here's a crazy thing: You know how we think skinny people are beautiful and pudgy people are not?"

Iris nodded up and down. Iris, a fourth-grader, writes in her journal of wishing she could go on "a shopping spree to Paris" and seems well versed in all things pop culture.

"Well, in Shakespeare's day it was just the opposite. Chubby people were considered the beautiful people. Can you think why that would be?"

Absolutely not. Not one person could imagine why. They gave each other quick glances and the more rotund in the group looked truly puzzled.

I mimed putting food in my mouth.

Arms flew up. "!"

"Yes, food, but why would that make a difference?"


"Ms. Ryane, will there be another snack later too, or just the orange?" Dominick asked.

"What does it mean if Dominick has food and I don't have food?"

" 'Cause you're so poor?" Mary suggests.

"Exactly. I'm poor and hardly have any food. That means plump people are...?"


"If you ever get a chance to visit an art museum, check out the people in the paintings...quite round. King Henry pushed the limits, but I think you get the idea."

"I wish I was Henry the Eighth," Dominick groused.

"Take out your journals. Our theme today is what it would be like to be an Elizabethan...what would you eat, how would you feel to be a girl, at that time, or a boy."

"I would eat whatever I wanted!" Dominick shouted.

Rachel and I got the rest of those snack bars delivered before young King Henry ordered another head to roll.

If Elithabeithin girl I would were puffy dresses, I would eat chiken feast and I would have body gards. I would change the lall that people can do plays. I would be a Queen. I would live in a big castall. And I would chage the lall that girls can go to school. I would be an acter. And I would not be shy.
—Page, 3rd grade

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