Thursday, November 08, 2012

Written for my memoir-writing class… A Critic & a Cheerleader Miss Smith was a giantess. A giant of a woman. I didn’t know women could grow so tall. And she was my kindergarden teacher. Once I was playing with my classmates – and I scared them. I had a bad burn on my arm, and they were frightened when they saw it. I noticed Miss Smith staring at me. Open-mouthed. She must have thought that I had frightened the kids deliberately. It happened again—my shirt climbed up and there was the ugly burn. And Miss Smith staring at me severely. At the end of the kindergarden term, Miss Smith took me aside and said she wanted me to remain in kindergarden. To help the new students. To continue cleaning the blackboard (that had been my job). I went home and told my mother I was remaining in kindergarden for another term, to help the new students. My mother introduced a new term into my vocabulary: left back. And she confirmed my suspicion that I was not being honored. Kids can’t explain – and say: Miss Smith had misinterpreted things. I had NOT deliberately frightened the other kids. Years later, a little girl got hurt on a backyard swing. She came crying to her mother. What happened? The mother asked. I had seen the accident, and I explained. She had pushed the swing, run under it, and it came back and hit her on the back of the head. The little girl nodded her head approvingly and pointed to me. Meaning: He’s right. A damn smart kid, but she couldn’t have explained it. Neither could I have explained to Miss Smith. +++ Mrs. Horowitz was my first grade teacher. She liked me. And I was a good sudent. I got a lot of gold stars. She called me the Number Boy. Because I could count to 100 – my mother had taught me. I had learned to spell MAN. I had just learned how to spell SOUP. So I wrote on a piece of paper: I AM SOUPERMAN. Miss Horowitz came over to see what I had written, and seemed to be amused. She showed it to the other teachers. They, too, seemed to be amused…. I didn’t know why. I loved reading and I was good at it. I AM A GINGERBREAD BOY. I AM. I AM. I CAN RUN. I CAN. I CAN…. I still remember my first book… I once had a dispute with another kid, and to justify my behavior, I lied. I had thrown his cap away – and claimed that I had slipped on it, which was why it landed up so far away. A blatant, embarrassing lie. Miss Horowitz bought it. Actually, she felt sorry for me — and pretended to believe the obvious lie. She was very smart. She was known throughout New Jersey, I learned later. She had written children’s books. At the end of the term, Miss Horowitz told Louanne Battaglia and me that we were skipping. We were bypassing the 2A and going straight to the 2B. Miss Horowitz asked my mother to come to school. Was I in trouble again? No, my mother said, approvingly, I was skipping. Miss Horowitz asked the kindergarden teachers to come in and see the two children who were skipping. Miss Smith seemed stupefied. She stared at me and stared at me and stared at me. It took me a long time to figure out why.

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