Sunday, March 1, 2009

School Days, School Daze

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin' and ritin' and rithmatic
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick ...

Are there people you try to remember more clearly, phantoms you'd like to reach back into the past and take a firm hold of? What do you remember of your early school years? High school years? College years? These are questions my best friend and I were reminiscing about a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe it has really been 29 years since I graduated from high school? Where have the years gone? In recalling these memories, I was amazed at the details I remembered from certain years, while other memories I only had a vague recollection.

My first foray into the world of education was kindergarten at Lad & Lassie. I don’t remember much from this time in my life, but there are a few things I can remember with clarity. I remember the cold feel of the leather car seat on the backs of my bare legs as Daddy would drive me to school. I normally wore a skirt or dress with knee socks and this left the backs of my legs exposed to the elements when I would sit down. I remember the "play" we put on - everyone dressing and acting out a part in a circus. My best friend at the time Jennifer "General Foods" and I were the double-headed fat lady - both of us inside the same dress with our heads and one arm a piece in each sleeve. For the life I me, I don’t remember why I called her General Foods, unless it was because Jennifer and General sounded alike.

First grade was at Rose Hill Elementary in 1968 - the last year the school was open. At six years old I had this huge puppy crush on Duane, who was an older man, a mature seven years old. I got in trouble one day because I wrote him a note and then pushed it through a crack in the wall between my classroom and his. I was humiliated when his teacher brought the note to my teacher and then proceeded to read it out loud to the classroom! I also remember having a field day or party day, and my Mom got to come and bring my little brother, Brent. I got so upset when Brent tripped and rolled down a hill on the side of the school yard. I was so afraid he was hurt, but he managed to end up with only a few scratches.

When the Mercer County Elementary School first opened, I was in the first second grade class. I don’t remember much from second grade, but third grade was a different story. I took my best friend's, Ella Jean, turtle out of his bowl on pet day and put him on the table. Then, during the morning Pledge of Allegiance, the turtle walked off the table and fell to the floor - Ella Jean was furious and the Miss McGinnis made me stand in the corner. I also thought it was okay to sharpen my yellow crayon in the pencil sharpener on the wall; this earned me my one and only spanking at school. Actually, I didn’t get a true spanking – the teacher took me into the supply closet and told me to never sharpen my crayons in the pencil sharpener again. She took the paddle and smacked her hand with it twice to make noise and then told me not to tell anyone. After that, Miss McGinnis was my hero!

Seventh grade at Mercer County Junior High – we all thought we were so big back then. No longer with the younger kids at the elementary school, we were one step closer to being with the cool kids in high school. This was the year I let several people touch my legs because everyone thought I was wearing pantyhose with my shorts. Fact was I used to tan brown as a berry from days spent in the sun and my legs were just naturally dark. This was also the year I started to seriously keep a journal, something I’ve continued to do for the next 35 years.

All four years at Mercer County High School, I dated the same boy and I was head over heels to the point that I began ignoring all my old friends and did everything I could to please my first love. The one person I managed not to alienate was my best guy-friend, Damon – he managed to stand by me no matter what and for that I’ll always be grateful. My only regret from my high school years was not listening to my family and friends when they told me I should not have settled for the first guy who caught my eyes. Oh well, hindsight is 20-20.

Going to college as a single mother of two children under the age of six was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but it is also the thing I am most proud of. After my divorce I attend the Midway College nursing program. My children started school at the same time – Amber was in kindergarten and Marie was in Head Start. Those three years were so hard, not only because of raising my children, studying for classes and attending clinical rotations, but because I also had to hold down a job. This was 25 years ago and when I look back I don't know how I survived with my sanity intact, or how my children turned into wonderful young women. The majority of the credit goes to my boyfriend, Keith, now my loving husband of almost 20 years. He is the one who kept me going, helping me with homework and entertaining the girls while I studied for tests or wrote term papers.

These are just a few of the memories my muse brought up when my friend and I were talking about our school years. The problem is I am nowhere near the tip of the iceberg on this subject. Just looking at school pictures can bring back an avalanche of memories. Capturing these memories on paper may take me the rest of my life, but I think I’m up for the challenge.