Posted tagged ‘Elementary school’

“Recess and lunch are the best.”

August 29, 2015

The sun was bright and warm earlier this morning. Now the sky is cloudy, and the day has darkened. No rain is predicted so I figure the sun will be back in a bit. I have a few errands today then I’ll do nothing productive for the rest of the day. The laundry still sits in the hallway. I don’t really care. It can sit another day.

My elementary school smelled of chalk, polish and on some days wet wool jackets. In the winter the radiators hissed steam and the windows were fogged so much you couldn’t see outside. That didn’t matter as there wasn’t really anything to see but the school yard in the back and on the side a couple of houses separated from the school by a fence and a driveway size exit from the back lot. I used to wonder if those people kept their windows closed whenever we were allowed out. That would be in the morning before school, recess and at the end of the day. My friend Kathleen lived three houses down from the school, and I envied her that. She came just before the morning bell, went home for lunch and after school was home in less than five minutes. I once had a pajama party at that house. I think I was ten or maybe eleven.

I have the strongest memories of that school. I remember standing on the top floor and looking down at all the stairs. Between each set of stairs was a landing and in the corner of every landing was a statue of Mary or Jesus or some easily recognized saint. They were small statues on shelves. The old stairs creaked and were so worn the middles of the steps dipped. Wood was everywhere. Every classroom had a cloak room right outside and every cloak room was too small for all the jackets. The classes had at least 35 kids and many had 40. So many jackets and coats were on the hooks you really couldn’t walk from one end of the cloak room to the other without having to pick up the jackets you dislodged.

That school is over a hundred years old. It is still in use. The old windows have all been replaced with more energy-efficient ones. Nothing else I can see on the outside has changed. I wish I could get inside. I want to see how well my memory drawers have kept the school alive for me. I can remember walking through the doors and seeing the first set of steps in front of me and on the right another set of steps going to the basement where the bathrooms were. At the top of the stairs I can look right and see my first grade classroom with the cloakroom right outside. That’s the room I remember the most because it was the first, the only room which made me nervous and a little afraid for the first few weeks. After that I was an old hand at school.

“It’s surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.”

June 22, 2015

The sun is in and out this morning trying to decide what to do. The air is still damp and a bit humid. Right now the sky is dark but the sun is peeking through. Rain is predicted for this afternoon so I’m thinking the sun will disappear for good a bit later.

It is officially summer, and it’s barbecue time. Bring out the ribs, the burgers and the chicken wings then add some sweet summer corn. My home-grown tomatoes are getting bigger on the vine and before too long they’ll be red ripe. July 4th is opening night at the movies. I have three possibilities on the ballot: Independence Day, Jaws and 1776. I’m leaning toward Jaws as it is celebrating its 40th birthday. “We need a bigger boat,” says it all. I have decorations and sparklers and I’m working on the menu. Red, white and blue will carry the day!

Memory is an odd thing. I have vivid memories of my childhood, but I sometimes hunt high and low for where I put my glasses. Some singular moments stand out from all the others, and I don’t know why. They aren’t particularly important moments, but they stay prominent regardless. One memory is silly. I was on the plane to Ghana and we stopped in Madrid. When we got back on the plane, my seatbelt was caught between the seat and the wall so I couldn’t use it. I pretended I was belted when the stewardess went around checking seatbelts. I don’t know why I just didn’t ask for help.

I sat in the back of the room when I was in the sixth grade, but in the front of the room when I was in the eighth. Neither really matters, but I still remember how the rooms looked from each perspective. I remember the candy counter at the movie theater. My favorite nickel bar of candy was a Welch’s Fudge Bar. They aren’t around anymore. My second favorite was a Skybar. You can still buy one of those. The fudge square was my favorite, probably still is. I remember how funny my feet felt in shoes after ice skating. My bologna sandwiches were misshapen because I had to cut pieces from a roll of bologna and some pieces were thick while others were too thin.

I can still close my eyes and see and describe places as they were. I don’t think of it as a trip down memory lane but rather as an adventure back in time.

“Education is the movement from darkness to light. “

April 10, 2015

This morning I noticed webbing between my toes. It appears I am beginning to adapt to a wet world where it rains every day. The sun is supposed to return, but I have become a skeptic worn down by snow and cold and rain.

In elementary school my day was chock full of subjects, some every day and some once a week. Many of them have since disappeared.

Back then no school room was complete without those green writing alphabet cards running atop the blackboards. On each was a single letter in both small and capital cursive forms. I always liked the capital Z and the capital Q. They were odd-looking and uncommon to use. We had penmanship a couple of times a week when we practiced the Palmer method. I remember the circles and the lines. I also remember mine were usually messy and didn’t resemble the examples we were following. The nun always stopped at my desk to show me how my hand should be moving up and down as I practiced. Many schools don’t teach writing any more. Cursive is disappearing.

Geography was always one of my favorite subjects. I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about knowing that Columbia produced coffee or that Costa Rica led the world in bananas, but I loved the pictures and the articles. I used to dream about visiting some of the countries in my book, but I never really believed I would see so many of them. When I was sixteen, we went to Niagara Falls and saw the falls from the Canadian side. I was visiting my first foreign country, and I was thrilled. They don’t teach stand alone geography any more either.

We had music a couple of times a week. We learned the fundamentals. I still remember every good boy does fine and face: the mnemonics for the names of the scale’s lines and spaces. We sang songs. I remember every nun had a mouth tuner like a round harmonica. She’d blow the note, and we were supposed to start singing the song on that note. I doubt we ever did. I was in the rhythm band in the first and second grades. I remember first year I did sticks and second year I did triangle. I always wanted tambourine.

Reading was a subject unto its self. We had reading books with stories then questions and new vocabulary at the end of each story. I always liked those books. Each year the stories shared a theme. My favorite was American folk heroes. I loved Pecos Bill and his riding the tornado. It was the only time he was “throwed” in his whole career as a cowboy. I learned about Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox, John Henry and Sally Ann Thunder who helped Davy Crockett and wore a real beehive as a hat and wrestled alligators in her spare time. There was even a sketch of her and the alligator. I got my love of reading from those books and those stories.

I was never bored in school. We went from one lesson to another quickly enough to stave off ennui. I looked forward to most of them but only tolerated the rest. I still don’t like arithmetic no matter what you call it.

“Nothing reminds us of an awakening more than rain.”

September 5, 2013

I venture to say today is a bit cooler than we’ve been used to of late. It is only 69˚. The rain clouds are back and there is a breeze, from the north, seldom a good sign. My house is dark.

Today I have a few errands and Gracie gets to come with me. Her waiting in her crate days while I venture out are nearly over. In the cold of winter, she gets to ride just about everywhere as I don’t mind leaving her in the car. Next week Gracie has her older dog vet visit. That comes six months after her well-dog visit. She’ll have blood tests and a general physical. I hope all will be well.

It has just started raining.

I loved my old elementary school classrooms when it was raining. The ceilings were high and the windows facing the schoolyard reached  to the ceiling. Watching the raindrops on the windows was somehow mesmerizing. They’d hit the window then roll down and finally disappear. The sound of the rain filled the room, and we always seemed a bit quieter on rainy days. The classroom lights hung down on long wires, and even though they were lit, the room always seemed a little dark. The crafty teachers placed the desks so our backs were to the big windows, but the side windows could be seen from anywhere. The view was of trees and shrubs and a house close to the school, separated only by a fence and the drive-way size entrance to the school yard. The back door of the school faced that little road. I sometimes slipped out that door at the end of school to avoid the crowds exiting the main door. The nuns didn’t care. Once the end of school bell was rung we were on our own.

I always got soaked walking home from school in the rain. My feet would squish in my shoes, my clothes got wet and my hair dripped. I never carried an umbrella. I was never the umbrella type. But getting soaked felt liberating in a way though I wouldn’t have known that word back then, but that’s what it was. I didn’t have a choice but to walk so it was like having permission to be wet even in my school clothes. Sometimes I’d hold out both my arms and raise my face to the rain. I’d close my eyes so I could feel the drops on my face. I know I fell in love with rain on those walks home.

“Education is wonderful – it helps you worry about things all over the world.”

September 2, 2013

Today is damp and cloudy. Maybe rain, even a v, is in the forecast. The whole weekend has been the same. I don’t think we had as many tourists for the weekend as usual. The forecast was spot on.

In kids’ parlance today is not Labor Day. It is the day before school starts. The buses roll tomorrow morning. My neighborhood has kids now, little kids, and four of them are headed to elementary school together: two to kindergarten, one to first grade and the oldest to second grade. They’re outside riding bikes now. I suspect their heads are not filled with images of new clothes, buses and the first day of school. They still have the look of summer about them.

The red spawn of Satan got the hose treatment again this morning. A short time later it was back but ran as soon as I walked on the deck. It didn’t take long for the hose and me to have an impact.

If I were to go back in time, to my elementary school days, I’d choose the fifth grade. We got bused for a while to the next town while the new school was finished. It was an adventure which also shortened the school day. We had the same hours as the rest of the school so we were on the bus for a part of the morning and a part of the afternoon. We always got back just as school was letting out for the day. In the spring we moved into the new school. My room was on the first floor. The nun I had that year was a jovial sort. She used to hand out pieces of candy as prizes. Seldom did she leave her desk chair to walk around the room so she’d toss the candy to the prize winner. She periodically had contests like who could list the most homonyms, now called homophones. I remember that contest because I won, and this was before computers. My prize was a miniature book with Bible verses. I was intrigued by the size of the book and not so much by the verses. I don’t remember what I learned that year, but I figure it was pretty the same as all the other years. Nouns and the other parts of speech never seemed to disappear and once we hit decimals and fractions they followed us everywhere. Columbia and coffee are forever linked. There was only so much geography. As for history, I have no idea what we studied in the fifth unless it was the Pilgrims, but in those days history sort of hopscotched all over the place.

We were still young in the fifth grade. We jumped rope during recess and giggled about boys. Fifth grade was when I punched the boy who constantly teased my friend and wouldn’t stop when asked, even nicely asked. That is probably my favorite memory of that year. I learned to stand up for friends and I learned I had a strong right.

“If geography is prose, maps are iconography.”

November 14, 2011

The day is cloudy and windy but quite warm, 61°. Those leaves I mentioned that were hanging on the oak tree are now on my deck. Every time I look out the window, I see more of them fall, victims of the wind. If I hadn’t been outside earlier, I would have thought it was cold. The day has that look about it.

When I was in elementary school, I loved geography class. Our books were filled with all sorts of information about each country and had the most wonderful pictures of faraway places. I still remember the picture of Christ the Redeemer standing with arms stretched on top of what I thought was a giant mountain. I probably didn’t know the word magnificent then, but that’s how it looked to me. Another picture was so beautiful I’ve never forgotten it. The picture was of a windmill in Holland surrounded by tulips. The windmill was in the background, and the front of the picture was filled with the colorful tulips, a flower I didn’t know and had never seen in real life. I lived in a region of  gardens filled with pansies. I remember reading about coffee growing in South America and how rice grew in paddies. We memorized the capitals of most countries and had to find them on the giant map in the front of the room. The nun would give us a long wooden pointer, and we’d find the country and then place the tip of the pointer on it. I learned all about the world because of those classes, and I learned we were just a small part of that world. The big map taught me that.

My last geography class was in the eight grade. High school was too crowded with other classes to include it. I missed geography. Algebra just didn’t have the same allure as those faraway places and amazing pictures.

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.”

November 10, 2011

Yesterday was what I always think of as a Cape morning in the fall, foggy and warm. Today is also warm but overcast. It must have rained during the night as the streets are still wet along the edges. Gracie has barely been in the house the last couple of days except she does take a break for her morning nap. That’s a dog after my own heart.

Gracie and I have a few errands this morning, and all of them are practical, but I think I need a bit of whimsy. Maybe I’ll stop in one of those wonderful small shops tucked away on Route 6A and maybe I’ll find a treasure. One must always be on the lookout for a treasure.

My elementary school turns 100 next year. I’m hoping I get to visit. I have wonderful memories of that school, of the smell of the wood, of the cloakrooms, the tall windows and the niches in the walls along the staircase where a few statues of saints held sway. By the time I got there, the wood had darkened over the years and taken on the character which comes with age. The stairs and the old wooden floors in the classrooms creaked. The wooden desks were the sort with a space below the top where you kept your books, and you had to bend over, look and take out a book or two before you found the one you wanted. The top of the desk had a hole for an inkwell and indentation all the way across the top where you put your pencils. I suspect those desks are long gone and have been replaced with the sort where the top comes up so it’s easy to find what you want. I’m sorry for that, but I know time takes its toll on all the places held suspended in our memories.

“A childhood is what anyone wants to remember of it. It leaves behind no fossils, except perhaps in fiction.”

May 19, 2011

Today we have emerged from a post-apocalyptic world where the sun never shines. Gray sky has been replaced by blue and the sun has appeared. How long this will last I don’t know. The weather report is for showers later this afternoon and for every day until Sunday. Even now the sun is dimming, and the sky is clouding. It is warm though, and I’ll take that.

In my memory spring never had rain. It had sun every day. I’d walk to school wearing a light spring jacket, my school bag slung over my shoulder and across my chest. I remember a red plastic strap and two small pockets below the buckle which kept the large pocket closed. I’d carry my lunchbox or fit it in my school bag if I could. Spring meant we no longer walked hunched over protecting ourselves from the wind and the cold. We could take our time getting to school. I remember that every morning the school yard was filled with kids milling around waiting for the nun to come outside and ring the hand bell. We’d hear it and run to line up in twos by classes then we’d walk into the building one class at a time. Recess was always a joy in the spring.

We never counted days when I was young so we never knew when school would end for the year. The last days arrived unheralded. First was a week of testing to see if we’d learned anything then on that last day we’d get report cards and be dismissed in the late morning. I remember running home to tell my mother I’d been promoted.

Next year the old school turns 100. I’m hoping there will be festivities so I can walk through the door and up those stairs one more time. Maybe they ought to bring back a nun, still dressed in a habit, who will ring the bell to tell us it’s time. I know every inch of that building, and I even remember where I sat in some of those classrooms. I want to know if the cloakroom outside my first grade classroom is as I remember it. I want to go to the top floor and look down just as I did every day. I loved the view of wood and stairs and statues in niches. My memories are mostly fond. Years do that-clean up our memories and keep the good ones alive.

“Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.”

May 3, 2011

Today is spring on Cape Cod, cool and sunny with a cloudy deep blue sky. Skip, my factotum, is here which is why I’m late. I have a day’s worth of stuff for him to do, and I was out on the deck for a long while with him explaining all the different chores. He took the covers off the furniture while we chatted and seeing the furniture again has made me itchy for warm days on the deck with a good book in hand. We checked the umbrellas to make sure they’d light. They did and then Skip started the fountain. My backyard haven is almost there, almost my summer paradise again. I can hardly wait to see all the candles hanging from the trees and lighting up the night.

When I was in elementary school, we had a May procession every year. We’d practice our songs in class until we knew all the words by heart. On that special day we wore our Sunday best. The second graders wore their first communion white dresses and suits. We were lined up by grade,  youngest to oldest. Walking at the end of the procession was the girl who would crown the statue of Mary in the grotto beside the church. We marched around the block from the school to the grotto. The block was a square and the procession ended almost at the same spot where it had started. Parents with Brownie cameras lined the route. You could hear names being called so pictures could be snapped. We walked as if we were in prayer with our hands in front. The nuns walked beside their classes making sure there was no talking between the songs. We managed to talk anyway. I remember when I was little I’d check out the crowds looking for my parents. The religious significance of the day was totally lost on me. When I was in the eighth grade, I did the crowning. I remember people snapping pictures of me on the route as I walked by them. I think I may have even posed a little. At the grotto, I had to climb a set of stairs and then put the crown on the statue. I was wearing my neighbor’s wedding dress, and I almost tripped on the train, but I managed to get up and down those stairs without falling, a major accomplishment for me. I remember the day was sunny, warm and beautiful.

“Memory is more incredible than ink.”

October 25, 2010

The morning is cloudy and will stay that way all day as rain is expected tonight. It’s warm out and that warmth will continue and be most welcomed. We’ll be close to 70° by mid-week, and I’ll be frolicking on the deck. Okay, I don’t really frolic.

I would love to visit my elementary school, the old school not the new school. I know I’ve mentioned it was the neatest place. There were high ceilings and long windows in each classroom. The corridor walls were dark wood. Right as you walked in the door you faced a huge set of wooden stairs with each stair sloped in the middle from years of use. The stairs led to the classrooms, and from the very top floor, you could look down to the very bottom. I’d take my camera and stop at my first grade classroom. It was huge, or at least it looked that way to me. The famous cloakroom was outside that classroom and two doors, one on each side of the room, led to it. We used to go by rows to fetch our coats and boots. I remember one set of windows looked out at the narrow road on the side of the school we seldom used. The other set faced the schoolyard. I have a sorts of memories from that first grade classroom. I think they were etched in my brain from the fear I felt being in school away from my mother and facing Sister Redempta.

My next stop for pictures would be at the very bottom, in the basement. When we needed to go to the bathroom, we asked to go to the basement for that was where the bathrooms were. From the top floor that meant a hike up and down all the stairs including a separate set only to the bathrooms. The boys’ room was on one side of the basement near the trash bins and the furnace. When I was on the drill team, that’s where our equipment was stored, and it was the first time I got a peek at the boys’ side. On the girls’ side was not only the bathroom but also an open room with benches where I sometimes had my brownie meetings. The room was below ground and had only small, narrow windows around the top sides of the room. The doors in the bathroom were wooden ones painted gray. Its ceiling was filled with pipes running across from one side of the room to the other. I remember they were painted white and seemed always to be peeling.

I am constantly amazed at what gets saved in my brain.

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