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?