Jenn and I were talking about school the other day, and decided a blog about our favorite memories would be a fun thing. And then, we invite you to tell us yours in the comments!
JENN: In high school I was in theater and loved everything about that class. Most of my favorite memories from then happened either in that class or in connection to it. My senior year our school was the host school for the UIL competition for the theater classes for the area. Because I had an issue with one of my classes which resulted in me failing it at the time I wasn’t eligible to be part of our one act play that year, but I did get to work crew with a couple of my friends. I was put in charge of letting each school know when it was time to go from a classroom to the greenroom, and then from the greenroom to the stage. A friend of mine was working backstage crew and we figured out that if we worked together it went much smoother. So we would stand backstage to watch and then when it was time to get the next groups to their respective spots she would go get the ones in the greenroom while I went to get the ones from the classrooms. We really did have a great time that night, and even danced the Cancan with one group backstage while they were waiting for their cues. Some of the things we did, like sliding down the halls in our socks, probably would have gotten us in trouble had we been caught but it all added up to a fun night and a great memory.
YASMINE: And now, I’m going to tell you a story that I have told before, but not for awhile and it’s in the blog posts that haven’t been imported yet. So here we go:
The Wonderful Book of Marvels
By Yasmine Galenorn
Every year, during late August and early September, my thoughts return to my childhood and elementary school. Autumn was skulking just around the corner, beckoning me in, and school shopping was about to commence. I loved picking out new notebooks and pens and crayons, and each year I was allowed to choose a new lunch box. The annual shopping trip had become a ritual for me, a ritual signaling frosty mornings and crisp autumn leaves and sitting in rows with my friends. It signaled the thrill of new discoveries about the world around me. I loved elementary school and each year I looked forward to the first day with a fervor matching only an evangelist’s. I was going to be a writer, and by the gods, school was my ticket to the gates of that ink-stained heaven.
Then, at the end of my fourth grade year, I got my report card.
Each June at Lincoln Elementary we would open our report cards nervously. At the very bottom was a note informing us whether or not we had been promoted to the next grade. On the same line, we found the name of our teacher for the next year. On the last day of fourth grade I opened the envelope, trembling. I never had any fear of being held back, but fifth grade was critical because of the choice of teachers.
Please, I thought, please don’t let it be Mrs. Weed. Anybody but Mrs. Weed.
She was old and mean, all the kids whispered behind her back about what a horrible teacher she was. Some teachers were old and nice, but Mrs. Weed was old and mean. She tolerated no back-talk. She twisted your ear if you misbehaved. She stood at the front of the class, staring from behind her black, horned-rimmed glasses with the silver chain that allowed them to dangle around her neck, defying anyone to challenge her. Nobody ever did.
I withdrew the slip of folded paper predicting my future and cautiously peeked inside.
Oh crap, I thought, although with a decidedly milder expletive. It couldn’t be true. But there it was, in clear, black type. I shoved the paper back inside the report card and went home.
Summer lost its luster. Each day brought me a day closer to the dreaded class of the school’s most feared teacher. Come late August, it was school shopping time again and as much as I always enjoyed the ritual of choosing a new lunch box and trying (unsuccessfully) to get my mother to buy me the clothes I liked, the specter of Mrs. Weed hovered over me like a dark cloud.
I went to school the first day, gritting my teeth. How could the school do this to me? I loved school. The school loved me. I was one of their best students. How could they put me in the class that I knew would be jammed with troublemakers? Mrs. Weed got assigned all the problem children because the mere sight of her cowed them into submission.
Mrs. Weed stood at the front of the classroom when we shuffled in, and she wouldn’t let us choose our own desks but instead, assigned us seats in alphabetical order. The desks had been moved to form a three-sided square so that at any given moment, Mrs. Weed could see exactly what any student was up to. There was no way to hide from those glinting eyes.
My distress increased when I realized that I had been assigned to sit next to one of the rudest, crudest boys in school. He was a known troublemaker, and just because our last names happen to fall next to each other in the roll book meant that I was going to have to suffer his teasing for as long as Mrs. Weed decided to punish me. I gave him a nasty glare as I sat down, hoping to stave off any conversation. Vincent promptly stuck out his tongue.
Over the next few weeks I finished all my work, tried to ignore Vincent (who didn’t want to be ignored), and basically did my best to avoid any confrontation with Mrs. Weed.
She daunted me. Not only was she old (she must have been over fifty, I thought), but she was tall and full-figured. My mother was a large woman, but she dressed homespun, making most of her clothes. Mrs. Weed was tall and large and wore business suits long before dressing for success became a catch-phrase. And she saw everything that went on from behind those butt-ugly horned-rimmed glasses.
A few months into the school year, Mrs. Weed brought a book to class. It was a thick book and it had a gray cover with a red spine. She said that she was going to read to us everyday. Being an aspiring author, I immediately perked up. If she liked books, she couldn’t be all bad.
Then, she opened the book, began to read, and I found myself instantly transported to worlds I never dreamed existed.
Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. Written as if to a class of young students, Richard Halliburton opened the door to adventure as he traveled around the world. With Mrs. Weed at the helm, we journeyed through both ancient and modern wonders that made my head spin with images of far away exotic lands.
We climbed the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We explored Pompeii and shivered when we found those ancient bodies hardened by volcanic ash, still struggling to get away from the danger. We sighed through the beautiful love story buried in the Taj Mahal. We scaled Mount Everest, and fought our way through the jungle to visit Angkor, the Walled City that was protected by giant seven-headed stone cobras. Each day we would take another journey and each day my imagination leapt into another world, another time. And then,
Mrs. Weed made us an offer. Any student who wanted to, could take the book home during the weekend. No one took her up on the challenge…except me.
I was enchanted. I loved hearing the stories and imagining myself there, right at Richard’s side. Mrs. Weed seemed pleased when I asked if I could take the book home and for the first time, we really smiled at each other. Perhaps she saw in me the spark she was trying so hard to kindle. Perhaps I saw in her the teacher desperately trying to open up new worlds to her students.
I took the book home for the weekend and my mother and stepfather liked it as much as I did. They immediately went down to the local bookstore and ordered a copy.
Monday morning, I carried the precious volume back to school. It was a large book and on the way, I accidentally dropped it. Mrs. Weed’s bookmark fell out and blew away in the wind.
I panicked. I had lost both her place and her bookmark and the pages had gotten dirty. She’d be furious. I’d get in trouble and she’d never trust me again. Her reputation for punishing delinquent students, now established as fact rather than rumor, suddenly swelled before me like a dark shadow and I crept into class, ready to cry. My childhood was harsh and I’d always learned it was safer to confess to my crimes than get caught in a lie. So I approached her desk. She smiled at me and said good-morning.
Guilt washed over me. I knew that she would never again trust me with another book, and somehow I knew that still other mysterious and fascinating volumes lay beyond the wonderful Book of Marvels.
“Mrs. Weed,” I began, my voice shaky. Then, because I could stand it no longer, I blurted out the truth. I’d dropped her precious book, it had gotten dirty, I’d lost her place and in the process, lost her bookmark.
Mrs. Weed stared down at me. What she saw, I can only imagine. A chubby little girl with brown hair so long she could sit on it, wearing a clumsy home-made dress, clutching the book so tightly that she might have been glued to it while desperately trying not to cry.
She must have sensed that my fear of her was secondary to my fear that I’d never be allowed to touch another one of her books. For, in looking at Mrs. Weed that day, in seeing her eyes crinkle with a smile even as she soothed my worry, it suddenly dawned on me that, old as she was, stern as she was, Mrs. Weed shared my love of adventure. She shared my joy of books and knowledge and she was doing her best to help me reach my goal.
I don’t remember what she said, but my fear of her seemed to float away as she took the book, dusted it off, and quietly marked her place with a new bookmark. I hadn’t counted on the fact that she would remember where she’d left off.
After that day, Mrs. Weed and I became friends. She gave me extra assignments when I became bored with the regular homework; she pushed me to do as much as I could and helped me learn self-discipline in my studies. I had always been a good student but Mrs. Weed motivated me to become the best student I could be. And, when the other kids whispered about her, I defended her. Even though I gained the reputation of the teacher’s pet, I stood up for her and at the end of the year, I was actually sorry to leave her behind.
Mrs. Weed has long since disappeared from my life, and I’ve little doubt she no longer walks this earth. Today, my mother’s copy of Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels sits on my bookshelf.
As for me? I did exactly what I said I would. I grew up to become a bestselling author. Now, my own novels and nonfiction sit on the shelf next to that grand and wondrous book I so loved as a child, and I get letters from young and old readers alike, thanking me for inspiring them with my work.
And every now and again, especially on cold, rainy days, I take Richard’s book off the shelf, feeling the hefty weight in my hands. I curl up on the sofa and once again, I’m swept off to far-away sights in distant lands, adventuring with the lost explorer. And I always remember the stern, towering, gray-haired lady who first introduced me to a world brimming with marvel, and I wonder who her guiding star was.
So tell us, what is your favorite memory from school?
3 thoughts on “Back to School Memories”
My favorite memory in school was in 5th grade. My teacher’s name was Mrs. McMullen.She had a reputation amongst us kids as being mean, so if course I ended up in her class. (Just call me Ms. Unlucky when it comes to things like that. I started out the year sitting in the very back of the classroom. I know now it was because I was the tallest, but then I thought she didn’t like me. Shortly I found out that the students who acted out for put up in a chair by her desk. It wasn’t long before I occupied that seat. I kept trying to figure out what I had done to deserve this. Well, I find out that she had noticed I was squinting to see the chalk board. She called my Poppy and told him he should take me to the optometrist and get eyeglasses. I have blessed her every day sinc, it means I am able to see well enough to read . I am an avid reader and would be very unhappy if I couldn’t read .
Honestly, I never had many pleasant memories of school, despite always having a love for learning. Too many bad teachers, mean kids, and just being unique in such a way that many of the kids practically tortured me. Yet, one good memory I can remember came from one of my art teachers. My school had students taking art class from 7th grade through 11th. I had had this one teacher since the 9th grade and she was my favorite. She encouraged all of us, even if we didn’t show talent in that particular type of art, and was always willing to listen to what you had to say.
Well, one day, I was struggling with how I felt about my choice in careers for when I went to college. I had determined, thanks to one quite mean English teacher, that maybe I should focus on my love of paleontology and not writing. I told myself I could always be a writer, but let’s choose a different path. I can always work on my writing without having to deal with mean English teachers. My art teacher knew that I always wrote and she took me aside during our first period art class. I remember her words that day quite vividly. She sat on her stool behind her tall art table. She was busy sculpting a cute little dragon out of clay, it was cuddling a teddy bear. She then said, “You know, I wanted to be an architect and did everything I could to get into the premier college for the field. I applied, but they told me that they don’t accept women. So, I went to another school and studied art. If I had looked into it more, I would have found other schools that were accepting women at the time.” I know I stared at her, trying to figure out why she was telling me this. She had stopped her sculpting and just smiled at me. “The point is, you need to do what will make you happy and keep looking into it instead of giving up. If you want to be a writer, do that. Don’t let one person or place tell you that you can’t. The only one that can determine whether you can or can’t is you.”
I know I nodded, said thank you, and went back to what our current project was. Thing is, from that point on I realized that the only thing I would be happy doing was writing. As long as I was writing, I could do anything. It’s actually worked well for me. I went and got my English degree in creative writing. Plus, I haven’t let anyone dictate what I can and can’t do, obviously within reason and laws. I have no idea what happened to that teacher after she left my school, but she helped me finally stop trying to force myself into a box I wasn’t meant to be in. I thank her for that even now.
The Tyranny of the School Nurse
I’m from a small town in MN that borders the Red River. As a child of the 80’s, you learned three things. Asphalt is NOT your friend, The King of the hill got budging rights at lunch time and the School Nurse was always underpaid, mean and not caring that you boiled your legs as you slid down the metal slide in 90 degree heat. Recess was always an obstacle course, try to get past the middle school kids, don’t be a target and DON’T get sent to the nurse. It was nearing the end of my 3rd grade, when I fell from the monkey bars because one of them swiveled in the sockets and I lost my grip. This was 1989 mind you and the fear in the other children’s eyes was palpable. When I barely made out the words from the Adult Chaparone to head to the Nurse’s station, we all panicked. I tried in vain to get out of it and I was hauled by my (hurt) arm to Nurse Rachet. Since I’m a female, I thought for sure I’d get some sympathy or some mediocre soothing from her and maybe some decent bedside manner. She would have none of that. The Nurse, (who’s Name will be held) grabbed my arm, twisting it this way and that and god’s did it freakin hurt! Promptly proclaimed it sprained, bruised and simply put a sling on it for the day. There was a boy in there who had come to get his immunizations, yes at that time, the school nurse could also provide basic needs so your parents didn’t have to worry about it. He whimpered, she told him to man up and promptly drove that huge needle in his arm. No bandaid, no suckers or stickers, nope…with her it was always Russian roulette on what temperament you were going to get.
That same day as I was waiting for some swelling to go down on my arm before going back to class, a kid came in for poison ivy. Now since our school was literally across the street from the river, there were patches of it there. The younger would always be dared to cross the street and grab some leaves and rub it on their arms or stomach and return with the leaves to show proof of bravery. So of course, they’d be taken to Nurse Ratchet for some calamine lotion, as this happened at least 6 times a year. Now I have always been an avid reader, and what I mean is, by second grade, I could read college level books and have comprehension. I taught myself to read and was taken out of English classes for 5 yrs in school. I told the poor kid that all he needed was some Jewelweed cream infused with lavender and tea tree oils. I got blank stares from the kid, who had no idea what I was talking about, But Nurse Ratchet whirled around on me and pinned me with a stare. “Who told you that!” She asked, with astonishment and I recoiled as if struck. I was scared to my wits with this woman! I have an Uncle who is 20 yrs older than I am and he was in med school at the time. I read one of his medical books while we were on vacation and visiting them. In this book was herbs and their properties, including chemistry compounds and their roles (at that time) in medicine. I was thoroughly entranced with this book and the medical uses of plants… WHO KNEW!! So I read the whole book in two days.
She told me to butt out of things for which I had no medical knowledge in and proceeded to shush me out the door and back to class. I was determined to show her just who she was messing with! That day, I asked my father (we were radicals, he was a stay at home father and my mother the breadwinner) to help me make this salve. He was gung ho all the way, he didn’t like Nurse Ratchet either lol. The next day, my arm felt better, although a little sore, but I had a small container in my pocket, ready for any emergency. It was actually two days later when I saw the fateful scene. The middle school children telling one of my own, (elementary children) to go and rumble with some poison ivy. This was a kid who transferred here and didn’t know our surroundings. I hated knowing that I had to let that kid go in there and get the ivy on his skin. The deed done, we all walked back into class and I watched him like a hawk. 10 min later, he was scratching his arms fiercely. Before the teacher noticed, I handed him the container and told him what was happening. He took it greedily and to my giddy delight, his symptoms lessened and he could go through the rest of the day and NOT see the Nurse of Doom!
The next day, a few more children came to me and asked for the cream as this new kid gave some serious kudos in my direction. The salve helped them all. I was the Queen of Medicine those few days and I secretly let out a “Shows what you know in the Nurse’s direction.” It was only a matter of time for her to find out. I was hauled into the principles office for giving out basically what she called, “Snake Oil” and she wanted charges brought up for harming the other kids who needed medical treatment. I was LIVID as any 3rd grader could be. So I told the principle, let’s wait till the next kid comes in and explained what the older kids were doing. I found a way to stop it and soothe the affected area until the kids could go home and get other care. We waited 30 min and a kid whom I knew was hauled in to the office. I promptly put on the cream in front of the principle and the Nurse of Doom, telling them what was in it and why it was working. The principle was astounded and the Nurse had nothing else to say as I told the boy to make sure to tell his parents what happened and get some care after school. Since that day, I have been interested in herbalism, chemistry and modern medicine. If it wasn’t for Nurse Ratchet, I wouldn’t own Moon Sisters Apothecary. As the years went by, we formed a truce of sorts and throughout middle school, she’d ask me whats the latest in herbal technology and medical sciences and my opinions. When she died in my early twenties, she actually Willed her stethoscope to me by way of my parents. It now hangs in my herbal cabinet, a clear reminder that modern is good, but there is always truth to what we knew in the past. It only took modern science, to prove it.