Sunday, August 07, 2005

More Childhood Memories of Roanoke

Another glimpse into the childhood of srp, mainly for my child but this also helps me firm up misty memories and discover that they are not far from fact. Case in point, my memory of May Day celebrations in first grade. I searched for the history of the school and discovered that the head mistress, who very well may have still been teaching when I was in first grade, was fond of May Day and other holiday celebrations. The house now on the historical site list was on a map and the location at the corner was exactly as I remember. Only wish I could find a picture, but no luck yet. Maybe in one of Mom's old picture albums. Anyway, here goes.
Xanga Entry: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 11:26 AM

Sometimes it feels like I'm writing into the vast emptiness of space and I feel like Clara Peller...."Is anybody back there? I don't think anybody's back there." If you don't know who Clara Peller was then I really should move to another posting site with persons of my own age.

One of the nice things (I guess) about getting older is that you forget a lot of things that happen when you were little. Of course as long as your parents are alive you have access to stories of those forgotten moments. I am trying to write about the times I remember, but Nyssa I do remember the stories the grandparents told me that I do not personally remember...the goat, the ants, the pony, the new sins, etc.

I think we tend to forget about the overall school experience and focus in on memories of small specific things, many of them having nothing to do with actual learning. This is true for me.

I started school at age five at a time when kindergarten was not yet a part of public school. With a birthday in January, I was too young for first grade. Mom taught school and had to have a babysitter for me. As you can see this was back in the Stone Age before the onset of daycare. I am not sure why Grandma Brown didn't keep me...oh yeah, she worked too. As it turned out there was one private school (Northcross) that was willing to accept me into the first grade even though I didn't qualify in age. They had a kindergarten but I already knew my letters, numbers and most of the phonetic sounds.....mother was teacher, right. My first grade class had twelve kids in it and my teacher was Mrs. Mosley. Memories of this school are vague almost like distant images in a swirling mist. I see a big old house from the 1850's (It is called "New Castle" and is on the historic register now) with high ceilings, creaking wooden floors and a staircase to the second floor where my class was. It was a house that had been made into a school. I believe it only went to third or fourth grade at that time. I don't remember any of the names of the kids in my class but one of the little girls was very rich by most standards. She had a birthday party and it was somewhere at a lodge...all I remember is that the whole class went on a train to her party and I had never been on a train before.

I do remember one incident when my teacher was out sick and our class had to go into the other first grade class. The teacher told us to print our first names on the paper. Mine was Sheila but no one called me that, ever, and I didn't know how to spell it. I am sure she didn't call me stupid in front of the class but something she said made me feel that way and I cried to the point that I disrupted the class. I was placed in the second grade for the rest of the day. That was fun. The next day I got to stay home because I told my dad I had a stomach ache. The third day I made a fatal error. When I saw that my teacher's car was again absent from her parking spot, I grabbed my stomach and said, "Daddy, Mrs. Mosley's car is not there, I have a stomach ache." This was the wrong, wrong, wrong thing to say! This may have been the beginning of my inability to lie with a straight face to my dad. Needless to say, he went in, found out my problem, borrowed an empty classroom and I got the yardstick to the behind action. Then he sent me to class, problem solved.

The only other thing I remember about first grade was the May Day celebration. The girls in the highest class dressed up in white Sunday dresses and they had wreaths on their heads. The play area behind the school had a pole and they attached brightly colored ribbons to it and had music playing while the girls skipped different directions around the pole until it was covered in the multiple ribbons. Then there was a tea party with cookies. I don't know what the boys did or if they were even there.

That was also the year I got my tonsils out, at Christmas break. They used ether then to put you to sleep. I was like the pitiful little kid in Bill Cosby's routine about tonsils: "Count backwards from 100". "100, ninety...clunk". It smelled like oranges. It's weird how you remember certain smells. Back then you stayed overnight in the hospital, but just one night, unless you developed a fever like I did, then you stayed two nights. Santa came to my house that year....really....Santa actually knocked on the door of the little house and brought the presents...(we had no chimney) The thing about tonsillectomy for me......BEFORE: impending death from starvation, could not eat, first grade picture shows small child with grin, buck teeth and almost as emaciated as a concentration camp survivor. AFTER: plump little elf showing the overweight habitus typical of her heritage.

After first grade, I went to public school...still too young but they made me take some tests and it apparently satisfied them because I had no trouble after that.

Forest Park School in Roanoke, Virginia was next. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Fansler. I got my first F on a test there. Ten math problems, five addition, five can guess how I did....50% wrong....didn't read the instructions. That was my last F until the first anatomy practical quiz in medical school...yes you do occasionally get F's in medical school even if you study hard. Anyway, I don't remember much else about second grade.. except that I was a bunny rabbit in the second grade school play...Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I wanted to be Snow White, but she was the tallest in the class and pretty, I was short and chubby, so I was a rabbit. Standing in line in costume another bunny and I got into trouble for hitting each other with our ears....then on to the play...I was a good rabbit....the Prince had to kiss Snow White. Yeck! It was 2nd grade...back then no one liked boys in second grade...

(more later)

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