Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Home Town

After one year in the armpit of Massachusetts - that is to say, Newburyport - we moved to yet another city, this one my mother's birthplace and mine, although I knew nothing about it beyond that.

Immediately, my brother and I made new friends. I was about to enter the eighth grade, and some of the new friends would be friends right through high school, or as much of it as I attended, and some would drift away after a year or two.

For the first seven years of school I had made pretty much straight A's in the academic subjects, B's and C's in such things as "Singing" and "Drawing" in the early grades. It was in the eighth or ninth year that my grades began to slip due to a combination of boredom and attitude.

I was very bright - I found out later that my IQ is in the top 1/1000 of a percent, but not in the top 1/10000 of a percent - and very well read. I'd been sickly as a baby and young child. I was a forceps baby, born with a twisted spine and a heart murmur. (I still have indentations in my temples from the forceps and I still have the heart murmur. A chiropractor did wonders for my spine and the only lingering symptom is that I am a little stoop-shouldered.) My parents had been told that I wouldn't live long.

I fooled the doctors, but had virtually every childhood disease known to man - croup, measles, mumps, bronchitis, chicken pox, yada yada yada, and even a ruptured appendix at three or four years of age. All this was in the 1940s, and television was not yet in homes. There was a lot of indoor time and even confinement to bed, and I became an avid reader.

(I still remember the first book I read that was unconnected with school. One Saturday, my father announced that he was going to the library. I was six years old and familiar with the concept of a library, although I'd never been in one. I asked him if he would bring home a book for me.

"What do you want?"

"I don't know."

In the event, he chose Peter Pan. I was enthralled by it. There were a lot of words I didn't know, but I knew how to use a dictionary. Sometimes I divined, or thought I divined the meaning of a word from its context, a practice fraught with pitfalls.)

I became such a compulsive reader that it was my first priority. I began reading the newspaper when I was perhaps seven, and read every book, magazine, and comic book I could get my hands on. Occasionally, my mother would tell me "For Christ's sake, Donnie, go outdoors and air the stink off yourself!"

Hmm, I've lost my thread here. Oh, yes - the point of all that is that almost nothing in my first few years in school was new to me when I encountered it in the classroom. Eventually, algebra, science, and biology began to present challenges, but history, English, and literature were boring, boring, boring. I'd read it all.

Enter the attitude. I began to get much more homework than I got in grammar school, and this was my downfall. I resented the time it took, and began not doing it as well as I could have. The result was - "A's" in tests and schoolwork, lower grades for homework, resulting in report card grades that were a little lower than they had been.

This slide continued until the eleventh grade, when I flunked every subject. My parents didn't know it, as I had begun forging a report card in the tenth grade. Flunking was a result of not doing homework and skipping school. One streak involved skipping for twenty-two straight days before getting caught. All Hell broke loose at home on that occasion.

1 comment:

bonboncho said...

I remember that period in my life :) The end of it was when i dropped out of college to come to America :)