Tuesday, June 7, 2011


"Four times ten is forty, Four times eleven is forty-four, Four times twelve is forty-seven?" my voice gradually decreasing in volume as I got to the dreaded twelves.
"Jacqueline Ann! Have you been studying your times tables?" my dad asked.
I knew I was in trouble when my first AND middle name was used.
It was second grade and Mrs. Di Bonaventure had made it explicitly clear that we were to know our times table. By know, she meant memorize. By memorize she meant that those times tables were to be part of us, inside, outside, upside down part of us. Me & multiplication should have been best friends forever, however I had some problem getting some of the facts into my long term memory.
It was Catholic school which meant a lot of the nifty things happening in education had failed to penetrate the walls of St. Ann's school. In my classroom, there was memorization, drill books, reading groups, seat work, and exams. Handmade flash cards from index cards was the most progressive thing I can remember doing. Of course, they were only in pencil or crayon, because pens and markers were not permitted until fourth grade.
With my large pile of flash cards in hand, I practiced those tables. My little fingers flipped those cards until they became dog eared and worn. I carried them every where I went and had every adult and older kid I knew quiz me.
I lived multiplication!
Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a bit here. I did not study nearly as much as I should, but in my defense, I was only seven! There were so many things more interesting then flash cards. There was music, and Nickelodeon, and playing outside with my sister and neighbors. Flash cards were a waste and I quietly resigned myself to a lifetime of never learning the twelves times tables (and some of the eight and nine too).
My dad, however had other plans.
He walked past carrying the tape recorder and a blank tape with a smug grin on his face.
"Hi dad". I said. "What are you doing?"
"Don't worry about that!" he said, as he walked away. "I'll have a surprise for you soon enough."
"Jacqueline Ann" he called, "I have something for you."
I ran into the living room expected a beautifully wrapped present. Seeing my dad sitting on the couch with his hand on the large sound system had me perplexed.
"Where is it daddy?" I asked.
"Sit down" he motioned to the couch as I sat next to him, my face still carrying a perplexing look.
"You always are able to learn those songs on the radio so quick, Jackie. I mean, it's like you hear it once and then you know it." he began. "Well, I figured that maybe if you heard your times tables on the radio like your music you'd be able to learn those too!". The look of pride gleamed on his face.
I was not buying it.
He pressed play and his voice began bellowing throughout our living room.
"One times one equals dramatic pause one, one times two equals dramatic pause two,..." and so it went.
Thinking back now I can remember the cadence of his voice. It wasn't my dad simply reciting the multiplication tables, it was reminiscent of spoken word poetry.It was something I know Mrs. Di Bonaventure would have frowned upon, but my dad knew me and in turn, knew how to help me. I listened to that tape a handful of times, and it did help me learn most of my times tables.
As an adult now, I will admit there are moments where I become stuck on a few of the twelves. I confess the voice that usually penetrates my brain as I think, isn't my own. It's my dad's! I hear him, in that syncopated rhythm reciting "nine times twelve is dramatic pause one hundred and eight, ten times twelve is dramatic pause one hundred twenty".
Now, twenty years later, I still remember.
Thanks dad!

RemembeRed: This week's memoir prompt asked you to dig deep to find what, from your childhood, you still know from heart.

I still remember all those rhymes you did while slapping hands with a friend, like Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack all dressed in black black black.

What do YOU remember?


  1. That would be soooo great if you still have the tape! Great dad and daughter memory.

  2. I love this! What an awesome dad you have! I still don't know the 12 times table. I stoppped at 10. :-)

  3. What a great dad! I can't believe you had to learn your multiplication tables in 2nd grade. I feel like I was much older than that, like 5th or something. Of course, it may just be that it was so long ago, I have no idea what I'm talking about. :)

  4. This is fantastic. Smart of your dad to try something "out of the box".

  5. Now THAT is cool! Your dad sounds like one amazing dude. Maybe your teacher didn't get it, but your dad was onto something. Don't they make heroic movies out of that kind of creativity now? You're dad is like a movie star. So fun:)

  6. Awww, I love that!! What an awesome dad!!

  7. I love that your dad did that for you. I remember things better when I hear them too!

  8. What a beautiful memory. I remember struggling with the tables too.

    I love the discussion of the cadence of his voice. I can imagine how he sounded.

  9. Ugh...those tables were the bane of my existence. The tapes your Dad made for you would've probably been helpful for me, too.

    Great memory! Thanks for sharing :)

  10. What a great dad for finding a way to help you.


  11. I so love how you told this story! An homage to your dad, his love and commitment to you and your learning. Pure amazing!


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