By Kesley Colbert
I lay awake at night trying to think of something good about getting older. Before I can drift off to sleep my left shoulder will start throbbing from a football tumble I took in 1965. My right heel will remind me that planter fasciitis lingers longer than an out of work brother-in-law. I can’t remember if I turned off the light in the kitchen…
And then August comes.
My days of going back to school are over. Forever! No more spelling bees, Red Bird reading classes, long division, standing in line to get a drink of water or conjugating Latin verbs.
It’s a month long celebration for me! It certainly makes getting along in years more palatable. I usually take an early morning run on the first week of school and kinda remind the young students on their way to classes that I’m enjoying my freedom…
It’s “the old man strikes back” syndrome!
And listen, I didn’t exactly hate school. I understood at a fairly young age the necessity of the institution. I just didn’t like that it was indoors. And you have no choice. And it was every week-day from August to May!
I mean, it might have been alright, if they had scheduled school outdoors, between innings….or at halftime of our football games.
I was not obstinate about it. Dad wouldn’t tolerate that. And I wasn’t mad at the world. And I certainly didn’t play the “Rebel without a Cause” scene. It was just more fun to slide down the hill beside George Sexton’s house than it was to multiply 569 times 742.
Mother would put on her cheery face, “Just think, you will see all your friends again. It will give you a chance to catch up on all they’ve been doing. You will love Miss Carolyn. She is one of the nicest teachers…”
Me and Yogi, Ricky, Buddy, John, Squeaky and the rest of the gang had been playing ball all summer. It was a small town. I had seen them most every day! Pam, LaRenda and Ruth Ann went to church with us. I had pulled their hair or thrown little rolled up pieces of the bulletin at them every Sunday for years.
We didn’t need to get confined in a classroom to do any catching up. But Mom loved that “back to school” speech. She gave it every August. And we never interrupted. It seemed to do her some good and it certainly didn’t do us any harm.
Every year the spelling words got harder, the math problems longer and the hour hand on the electric clock above the chalkboard would just sometimes grind to a halt. Maybe the best lesson you learn in elementary school is perseverance.
It might be a bit “telling” when dusting the erasers out by the incinerator was the highlight of the day!
Mother was right about Miss Carolyn and Miss Dorothy and Miss Belle…
Good golly, they put up with some of the idiotic things we did like it was old hat to them! They wouldn’t bat an eye when Yogi slipped into class with a frog in his pocket. They never fell for the “fake heart attack” right before the big math test. And they could discern ketchup from real blood with one glance all away across the room. Talk about some perseverance on their part!
The problem was the teachers couldn’t do it for you. We still had to diagram those sentences. You folks are way too young to remember that exercise! We’d put the subject and predicate on one line, and then you had to add the adjective and the adverb on a slanted line underneath. I can’t remember where you “diagrammed” the participle.
And you could not end a sentence with a preposition no matter had much you wanted to.
Mrs. Carter would hand out those green tinted sheets of multi-checked graft paper. We had to plot the “x and y” coordinates above and below the center line. I can’t remember if that was in algebra or geometry. Then, of course, we connected the dots. I’m still a little fuzzy on what that was all about.
Miss Polly made us memorize the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. It wasn’t even in English! And to this day it might be the one single hardest academic thing I ever attempted.
School was difficult for me. And confining. But I survived. Lunch and PE were my best subjects. And I certainly appreciated, fell in love with and remember fondly “all your friends” as Mom called them in her annual “prologue”.
But I don’t miss the studying, the homework or the constant exams!
I do sleep well in August.
PS: You know, not one person, in all my life, has ever rushed up to me and asked me to diagram a sentence for them.
Kesley Colbert is a 1965 graduate of McKenzie High School. He now resides in Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org
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