Last week in Connecticut, the kiddies started school. Which got me to thinking about my old school days. Actually, every September, I feel instinctually that I should be in school. So anyway, I will list some of my school memories and experiences.

1. The smell of rubber cement. I don’t think it’s allowed in school anymore, but the smell of its fumes at the time was intoxicating, probably literally. I loved to pull the capped brush out of its metal container and watch the thick transparent goo stream down, then swab it against the rim of the lid and go to town. Of course, half the fun was letting it dry and rubbing my fingers along the edges of whatever I’d glued down, while the dried rubber gathered into a nice sizeable soft ball, at which I’d ping around the room when I could.

2. Tow-headed Robert, who was very tall and my first ever crush in first grade. He used to walk with me to CCD. I was very sad when he moved away.

3. Fire drills. Always seemed to be on the coldest, gloomiest days, usually in the morning. I remember watching exasperated teachers herding us together and counting heads.

4. Jello. So prevalent. So sticky and slippery. Found usually on the floors in smeared blobs.

5. Classroom bulletin boards. Some teachers seemed to go all out. Themes always seemed to have multiples, like apples on a tree, or feathers, flowers, etc., with a classmate’s name on each one of course.

6. Vying to wash the blackboards. Always the coolest job. I so disliked a dusty looking blackboard. I remember lists in the corner of names of naughty children…wtf was that all about? I also remember the cool chalk holder the music teacher had that held multiple sticks of chalk to make staffs with on the board. Do they even have blackboards at school anymore?

7. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mostly because it was mixed together at our school and looked and tasted sort of odd. I don’t think pb is even allowed at many schools anymore.

8. Lots and lots of daydreaming. Especially in the math and science classes. Funny how science fascinates me now.

9. The art supply room in high school. Freaking candy store. Our teacher supplied us with the very, very best. We could have aneethingggggg we wanted, as long as we were willing to work hard. Our program was legendary in the school art show circuit. Lots of awards.

10. This is last because this is long. Thea Wolfe. Artist. Goldsmith. Pottery maker.  Exotic, classy beauty. World class traveler who loved India, and bemoaned the maimed beautiful men in Italy, after the war. High school Social Studies teacher. I thought of her today when I was reading the Marie Antoinette articles in this month’s Vogue. That woman made history seem like one big evolving soap opera, dishing dirt behind all the legend’s personal lives, Napoleon and Josephine in particular.

Always radiant. Wore miniskirts well into her fifties. Whispers of a facelift during one long sabbatical. Never found the truth behind that one, though she would bawl out girls in May and June who arrived to class with telltale pink-magenta  faces from the sun.

Thea made her own thick gold bracelets and sported a large diamond ring from her husband, who was besotted with her. They drove a cream colored, vintage Jaguar. A group of high school carolers were once  greeted by her husband at the door, who explained Thea’s absence by telling them, in his thick German accent, that Thea was regretfully unavailable and  in the bath, adding that “nothing is more beautiful than Thea in her bath”. Damn!

More than history, she taught me alot about many things female. Here was this tousle haired Cleopatra lookalike who was sexy, vibrant, creative…but also smart, sophisticated, traveled, and independent inside of a relationship.

Not many teachers like that. Not many women like that in my hometown.


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September 2006
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