school

Staying in Focus: Focus On: Grandparents Day

Recently, Bill and I were invited to attend Grandparents Day at Evelyn and Gavin’s elementary school.  Bill’s first question was: Will we have to sit in tiny chairs? The answer, we discovered, was no, not tiny chairs, just tiny stools. But tiny stools not withstanding, we had a great time!

We were scheduled to have lunch with Evelyn (fourth grader) at 12:00 and Gavin (first grader) at 1:00. It was so delightful to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they spied their grandparents waiting outside the cafeteria. It may be hard to explain that special bond that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren, but you can see it in their eyes and in their smiles. These are my special people, those smiles say. One dedicated grandmother I spoke to had driven down from Virginia to have lunch with her grandkids! The little ones know unconditional love when they see it.

We missed Evelyn going into the cafeteria, but she spied us as she filled her tray and joined us at the table. We ate half of our lunch with her, and saved half for lunch with Gavin. She chatted with us, telling us she had the role of Blackbeard in the school play, and pointed out her teacher to us. We admired the peridot earrings she was wearing, having had her ears pieced for her recent birthday.The half hour allotted for lunch passed by very quickly, and then we loitered outside the cafeteria until 1:00. when Gavin’s class arrived .

I spied him walking down the corridor, and walking toward him, called his name. That smile that touches my heart every time I see it, spread across his face. He slipped his little hand in mine, and led us into the cafeteria. We found 3 empty tiny stools to sit on and Gavin went to get his lunch on the most incredibly slow lunchline I have ever seen. He had to eat fast to finish in time, but he told us about the things he was building with his Legos, that he was going to be a Thundercat for Halloween and what his schedule was like for the rest of the day.

We told him we would set up another overnight visit with us soon. Bill has this Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head toy (apply named Darth Tater) that Gavin likes to visit when he comes to our house. Bill told him that Darth Vader (Tater) missed him. As he ran to get on line with his class he called back to Bill, “Tell Darth Vader I’m at school!”

There was a bit of a traffic jam as the teachers corralled their students and this gave our Gavin time for3 trips back to us for a quick 3 hugs. Believe me, you can never have too many Gavin hugs.

Gavin wanted us to go with him to see his classroom. We told him that was probably planned for another day, and besides, it was time for recess. With a wave of his hand he disappeared with his class down the corridor, back to his world as we made our way back to car and ours.

It’s a good thing, I think, to visit each other’s world once in a while, to know how they spend their day, see that they are happy and well looked after, and , of course, to get a few extra hugs for the road.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition

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Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:

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(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…

September

A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits:Staying in Focus: Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)


 Daily Prompt: Fifteen Credits

Another semester is starting. If you are  in school are you looking forward to starting classes? If you’re out of school, what do you miss about it — or are you glad those days are over? 

Memories in Black and White (Notebooks)

Although I often felt sad at the passing of summer, those long, sunny days of swimming, fishing, hiking or lying in a hammock reading the afternoon away, there was always a special anticipation which came with the arrival of September. We started school  after Labor Day, and so September brings to mind change, replacing summer’s freedom and ease with routine and schedules.

We would go to a store named Gellman’s to pick up our uniforms, to a shoe store for black and white saddle shoes and then to the Ben Franklin’s  or Woolworths for pencils and paper, black and white notebooks, and fountain pens and cartridges (remember them?  No ballpoint pens allowed in my school). To this day I cannot walk past a display of school supplies without getting that nostalgic feeling.  I can remember having a Dr. Kildaire pencil-case and a Monkees lunchbox.  Am I dating myself here?

I can remember opening that new black and white notebook, all the pages crisp and clean, that first page representing a new beginning, full of possibilities, a new year of learning waiting to be written. I remember how carefully I would write on that first page, practicing my Palmer method handwriting.  By the time the notebook was filled, it was dog-eared and tired, the excitement of a new school year-long past and replaced by dreams of Christmas vacation.

While in school our lives have clearly marked milestones. The beginning of the school year in September, Christmas and Easter vacations, the last day of school followed by an endless summer. Once out of school the years run together, and one day you find yourself gazing nostalgically at the school supplies in Staples.  Dr. Kildaire is long gone, and now vampires and zombies cover the spiral notebooks which have replaced the old black and whites.

Do I miss the start of a new school year? I guess, so, as I have just enrolled in an online course provided by my local community college. Some things change and some remain the same, and guess what? I can still find a black and white notebook wedged between the vampires and zombies. Now, I if I can only find that fountain pen!

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school picture grade 8

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my first black and white notebooks

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Beware the Ides of March

I just happened to hear on the TV that today is the Ides of March. Having taken Latin for 3 years in high school, I am well aware that on the 15th of March, 44 BC Julius Caesar was assassinated, betrayed by not so nice friends.

In case you are wondering what the Ides of March are, according to Wikipedia,, instead of counting through a month sequentially, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points in the month — the Nones (the 5th or 7th depending on the length of the month) the Ides(13th or 15th) and the Kalends ( first day of the next month). No one can accuse the Romans of being simple-minded.

So, it was on the Ides of March  that Julius Caesar was assassinated.  Various celebrations have surfaced in regards to the Ides of March. Back in the day, (Caesar’s time) people celebrated with picnics, drinking and revelry because as March was the first month of their year, the Ides were included in their new year celebrations. More than two weeks to celebrate  the new year! Well, no one has ever accused the Romans of not knowing how to party! Today we can join the Canadians as they celebrate the day by drinking Bloody Caesar Cocktails.  I personally avoid hanging out with guys named Cassius and Brutus every March 15th.

But what really came to mind when I realized that it was March 15th, was a certificate I came across while I was going through some old school papers to include in my memoir. This certificate was issued to me in 1969.  Only a handful of people will remember the awarding of this certificate. (Kathi, if you are reading this, you might be one who remembers.)

We arrived at school one day and were given a Latin test by the Association For Promotion of Study of Latin. I must admit, I was not taking it  completely seriously. In 1969, I was a sophomore in high school, finishing up my second year of Latin study.  I didn’t think I had  a chance of doing well, and remember writing “et, tu, Brute” as my response to several questions .

Well, either that phrase occurs in Latin far more frequently than one would expect, or those were the 19 points I missed, because imagine my utter and complete shock when sometime later, my name was called to come up and receive my Certificate of Superior Merit, Magna Cum Laude for “Meritorious Proficiency in Latin”, having correctly guessed (?) my way to a score of 101 out of  a possible 120. The incredulous looks on the faces of my friends were an extra kick to receiving this award..

I was sure it had been a mistake, and that the day would come when I would be stripped of my honors and forced to return my certificate to its rightful owner. But that day never came.

A funny aside to this story — I ended up marrying the guy who won this award the previous year. In his case it was well deserved.  I remember returning to my  high school the summer before I married Bill, to help my younger brother pick up his text books for the coming school year. I ran into my religion teacher, Father O’Rourke, who asked how I was doing.  When I told him I was engaged to Bill, he said, “That boy is  a genius, you  know.”

certificateAfter 37 years of marriage, I tend to agree, and find myself proud to have achieved the same award as a genius. Maybe I really did know more Latin than I gave myself credit for. I did go on to take the optional third year of Latin and I believe  the study of Latin helped me ace the vocabulary section of the SAT.

So, in retrospect, the Ides of March remind me to have a little more faith in myself, or that miracles can occur in the unlikeliest of circumstances, depending on my mood at any given time. And whereas it didn’t turn out well for Caesar in the end, I say, “Carpe Diem! Et tu, lectors?”

(The Canadians have just arrived with the Bloody Caesars. Time to party!)