I was in the sixth grade and attending IS 126 in Queens, New York. My English teacher was a lovely lady, she was a little out of place, very neat, well-mannered and Greek. One day she assigned us homework. The assignment was to draw a map of a park we’d like to visit. I got home and got the big, white piece of paper that my mother had folded in her file cabinet. I got a pencil and a ruler and started writing in things. I made everything in geometric shapes, making sure every inch of the paper was filled. I did not draw trees or flowers, I simply wrote in the names of the different locations in the park.
I remember a spot, “take time to smell the flowers” and “Acorn Alley” which was between “Sunflower Street” and the Wishing Well. I don’t remember much else but I do remember the look on her face when she saw my paper. I knew she liked me and always tried to make me feel good. Her eyes lit up and she read everything, she showed the whole class (most of which didn’t hand in a paper) and I felt so proud. It was really the first time in years anyone had complimented my work.
In fifth grade I had Mrs. M… we were her last class before she retired. She was close to Edith Bunker as you could get. She wore the same type of dresses Edith wore, same setting-lotion curl hairstyle and same high-pitched voice. She played the piano every week when we’d go to assembly. I remember one assembly in particular when one of the other classes was performing a play and Mrs. M was at the Piano. Another teacher stood at the head of the row and counted us out… 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 I was number 8 and Marie, my best friend and bobsey twin had to go to the end of the next row. Mrs. M would have let me go with Marie and take the girl behind us to sit where she wanted me near the parents who came to see their kids perform. I was at the end near the aisle which had a good view even if it was lonely.
The play was about to start and we were told to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance. Keep in mind this is Queens, New York in the early 1980’s. Two men stayed seated, I noticed that but did not think anyone else had. Several of the men around them started a scuffle of sorts… telling them to stand up and they remained seated. There was some high toned whispering and finally the men uncrossed their arms and stood up for the Pledge and songs. When I sat down all I could think about is who they were here to see, why didn’t they stand up? Now they would have been carted off as terrorists. The play was not remarkable in any way and I don’t even remember the name or what it was about… it’s funny what a brain retains and what it flushes.
When we got back to the classroom Mrs. M was tired, it showed, I could see her feet were swollen by the way they popped out of her sandals, even though she was wearing stockings. She was really ready to retire. Something happenned with one of the boys and she threw the eraser and jumped up and down in a tantrum saying, “you kids are gonna drive me to drink” about ten times. I’m not kidding, most of the kids laughed… Marie even laughed a little… I felt sorry for her, she was a poor old lady and this was her last year. This was not the only time she did this… she did this a few (at least two other times) during the year. One time she jumped so high she broke the heel from her shoe and had to go to the teacher’s lounge. Looking back, I can’t even remember what set her off. Once again, I guess that was not the important part.