I remember being a kindergartener in Mrs. Collins’ class. It was 1980-81. I was in the PM kindergarten class in the almost brand-new wing of Drums Elementary School. I loved being in elementary school. I learned so many things. I grew so much. I remember learning our letters in kindergarten, and that there was an animal associated with each one. I don’t remember what most of the letters were…maybe A was for aardvark, and B was for buffalo. I don’t know. But I remember that X was for Xerxes. I swear I learned this! I remember it looking like an armadillo. But the internet disagrees with me. There is apparently no animal named Xerxes. (Well, there are a bunch of pets who have that given name, but no animal species.) All the books my kids have had listed X as “X-ray fish.” No Xerxes. I have no idea what I’m remembering — maybe it was some bizarro curriculum that couldn’t think of anything for X, so made something up. Or maybe my memory is just faulty. The closest I can find online is that apparently the “superorder” that includes sloths, anteaters, and armadillos is Xenarthra. I don’t know.

So that sends this next memory into questionable territory as well. I also remember Mrs. Collins telling us that Puerto Rico would one day be the 51st state in the United States. I don’t know why I remember that. I have these flickers of memory from my early life, just a few things that stick out. I guess it was things I found important or surprising at the time. One of them was this factoid — Puerto Rico was slated to become the 51st state. Now, it’s been about 38 years since I learned that, and it has not come true. I don’t think there’s much hope for it now. Heck, I imagine at least half of the American public doesn’t even realize that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.

The interesting thing is, there have been multiple candidates for the prestigious honor of 51st state. The last time the flag was changed was in 1960, just after Hawaii joined the union in late 1959. (There was a 49-star flag for just one year, since Alaska joined early in the same year.) But it’s been stable for the past sixty years, far longer than the United States had ever gone before without admitting another state to the union. Some obvious possibilities are the territories of the US, Puerto Rico being at the top of the list. Others include Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The District of Columbia has also considered a move for statehood as well. I find that very unlikely, because the creation of DC from land annexed from Maryland and Virginia was precisely to ensure that the federal capital was not in any one particular state.

There’s another way a 51st state could arrive: if an existing state split. Proposals have been floated in places from California (even a petition to split CA into six states!) to Florida (a proposal for “South Florida,” including Miami, to secede from the state). Michigan is already in two pieces, separated by Lake Michigan. Why not let the Upper Peninsula become a new state, called “Superior”? Some residents of Upstate New York (which is to say, not in New York City) would like to see the city separated from the rest of the state.

And then there are the facetious descriptions of the 51st state: Canada is the 51st state, or Iraq is after the US invasion. Israel is the 51st state, due to all the funding and support it receives from the US. And so forth.

So, I don’t know. Will we ever see this flag in our lifetimes?


Or was it just Mrs. Collins’ dream? Or is it as fictional as Xerxes the armadillo?

2 thoughts on “Fifty-One

  1. I remember none of this from that class. But- you’ve always had a better memory of such things! I remember going outside from her classroom. I remember the little playhouse she had in her classroom. I remember years later riding my bike to her house as she was on my paper route. Thanks for your writing. Keep it up!!


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