Sunday, November 4, 2007

Grammar School

My first grade class at Wentworth Acres in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, had a recess period of . . . well, I don't really know. Perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes.

Our teacher was Miss Wilson (real name), and for recess she organized us into two columns, one of boys and one of girls, who would march side by side out the classroom door, down the hall, and outdoors.

Every morning before recess Miss Wilson would give the class a short written quiz on some subject. She would collect our papers and grade them, and there was a reward for the highest score: you got to be first in your recess line, and you got to choose the person who would be first in the other line, your marching partner, so to speak.

When I had the highest score I always chose Nancy and when Nancy had the highest score she always chose me.

Interestingly, I do not remember anything else involving Nancy. I'm sure we didn't play with each other, on or off the school grounds. Although she must have lived in Wentworth Acres, I have no "picture" in my mind of where she might have lived, as I have with many of my other classmates and playmates.

Little else about grammar school stands out in my memory. There were two classes for each of the six grades, and I was one of several grammar school dorks, although that word was not in currency at the time.

In the fifth grade I got my first crush on a girl. A classmate also had a crush on her - she was in our class - and we occasionally commiserated with each other. She didn't seem to know that we existed and we didn't know what to do about that. Years later, when I was in the Army and in Germany, my father sent me a newspaper clipping. She had become "Miss Maine." Googling her name, I now learn that over the several years following that, she had fifteen or twenty supporting roles in various television program episodes, then married and retired from acting.

When I was in the fifth and sixth grades, it would occasionally happen that the Principal's secretary was out and he - Mr. Hooper (another real name) - would have to go somewhere. I would be tapped to go sit at the secretary's desk and answer the phone and take messages while he was gone. I imagine I was chosen because I could afford to miss an hour or two of classroom discussions. Being a prolific reader, I was already familiar with much of what was being taught.

Jumping backwards here, my family moved to Portsmouth when I was in the first grade, and in short order the school contacted my parents and expressed a desire to move me into the second grade. I was not a party to the discussions my parents had on the matter, and I do not have a sure sense today of how I would have felt about it, whether I would have wanted to skip a grade or not. I do have a vague recollection of them telling me that the issue existed and that they had decided against moving me up a grade. Again, I have no memory of my feelings about the decision, whether I was happy or disappointed. Most likely, I think, is that I just shrugged it off as unimportant.

Many years later I asked my father what had been the deciding factor, and I learned that he had skipped a year in grammar school. For him it meant falling a little behind and working hard to catch up. Also, he disliked being the youngest - discernibly the youngest - in his classes all the way through high school.

No comments: