The Crossing Guard And The Blue Wool Jumper

When I tell people I was a painfully shy little kid, they look at me with this weird anticipation… like they’re waiting for the punch line.  But I really was. I wouldn’t raise my hand in class if the paste-eating kid who sat beside me was free-basing it under his desk. This could stem from an incident on my first day of kindergarten but that’s another story which will  eventually become clearer after I complete my regression therapy.

But I digress.

There is something I share with Sarah Palin [besides genitalia]. Just as she can see Russia from her house, I could see my grade school from my house. So I walked every day. And I had shoes, thank God, so this isn’t one of those “I walked ten miles to school in waist-deep snow with no shoes” bullshit.   The bane of my existence was not shoeless-ness but rather an obstacle called The Crossing Guard.  And back in the day? The kid who bore the heavy burden of keeping us younger kids from being hit by one of the four cars that went down our street every day was a bona fide authority figure. And I feared him.  He was a sixth-grade boy which put an extra slice of Holy Shit on this third-grader’s fear sandwich.

And then….the Incident.

It was a bright, crisp Spring day. I was wearing a light blue, wool jumper with cross-cross suspenders in the back probably worn by my two older sisters before me which, given the age span, made me a fashion disaster.  Not to mention my horrifying plaid lunchbox…PLAID! Oh, the humanity, the injustice!!

And this next part is difficult to write….

On the day of the Incident, I was late for school.  Late. For. School.  That’s like saying My Mom Got A Job or My Parents Are Divorced which no one in my neighborhood said in 1968.

And so it went. My mother shoved me out the door and told me to run.  I did, but it was endless like one of those crazy dreams where you’re running as fast as you can but never getting anywhere…and that wool jumper was heavy and hot and I knew what was waiting for me when I finally got to school….late.  I was Dead Girl Walking.

And then there he was.  The Crossing Guard at the bottom of the hill.  With his back to me! He doesn’t see me! He’s gazing up into the trees, picking his underwear out of the crack of his ass! How will I get his attention? How will I cross the street? Should I make some noise? I may have to speak to him!

No! I can’t!

And I ran home and collapsed on the kitchen floor.

My mom shoved me out the door again after reviving me with a strong sniff from a Mr. Clean bottle cap.

I had no choice now. I had to run balls out down the hill and across the street…alone….with no help from That Bastard, ADD Crossing Guard who was long gone. Happy now, Crossing Guard?  I could have been killed by one of those four cars! Or impaled by the hood ornament from Mr. Sawyer’s ’66 Plymouth Fury but hey, at least you dug your BVDs out of your ass you selfish prick!

I looked both ways fourteen times, closed my eyes and ran.

I survived.

I raced up the hill to my school only to be faced with obstacle numero dos.

Being that it was Springtime in Illinois, our school black top was covered in dark, murky rainwater…Our Own Private Lake Michigan.

And it had to be navigated.

My choices were:  A) go around which would mean being even later because Lake Michigan was pretty fucking wide that time of year….or B) run through the middle and hope I didn’t hit a deep patch.

I chose foolishly and my hideous velveteen oxfords found the deep patch. I  went full frontal into the murky void.

The next thing I remember is showing up at the door of my third grade class. My teacher looked me up and down, pointed me to my seat.  I slinked to my desk without a word and sat quietly mildewing the rest of the day.

In case you’re wondering, the approximate weight of a soaking wet, wool jumper is forty-six pounds.










Hot, Baby, Hot!

When I was a kid, I lived in fear of something:

Puking in the school cafeteria.

Y’all know what I’m talking about.

It happened to at least one unlucky soul every school year as long as I can remember.

It was the ultimate humiliation. 

I don’t remember much about grade school (besides Mrs. Mace who was 112 and still teaching 2nd grade) but I can conjure every puking incident that ever occurred.

To wit:  Winter 1968.  The cafeteria is jammed.  It’s hot because our coats are still on from recess.  We’re sweaty.  The kind of sweaty only a Midwestern kid swaddled in wool can understand. The hairnet–wearing lunch ladies dole out over-cooked food to an unfortunate few whose mothers either worked (what? worked???) or couldn’t be bothered to slap a hunk of bologna between two pieces of stale Wonder bread and stuff it in a bag.  The rest of us enjoy mom-made PBJs and slurp down white milk purchased with the 3 pennies taped to the lids of our metal lunchboxes.  Mine was plaid.  Yes.  I said plaid.  Not Brady Bunch, not Flipper…..plaid.  I fucking HATE plaid.  Go ahead and laugh, shitheads!  My mom was frugal and she probably got a really sweet deal on that beauty beaucause no other consumer on the planet would buy it.  Just like the army green parkas with fake fur collars she got for $15.95 that EVERYONE in our family wore including my grandfather. I think they’re still wrapped in plastic and occupy a remote corner of closet space in my childhood home.  As for the lunchox…well….I’m sure my dad dug it out of the trash after I attempted to wipe it from my memory when I entered middle school. It’s probably stuffed full of old shooting medals or spent shotgun shell cartridges.  I suspect I’ll run across it again some day.

Anyway…..Robbie M. (name has been changed to protect his dignity) had a caring mommy like mine who packed a wholesome meal every day in Robbie’s GI Joe lunchbox (it was not plaid).  That lunchbox will forever be etched in my memory because Robbie hurled into it with a vengeance like he’d been subjected to a diabolical tilt-a-whirl operator at the local fairgrounds.  Poor kid.  I still think about him from time to time and what caused him to hurl so violently.  If you asked me,  I think Robbie had a nasty ear infection because there’s only one thing that can produce a color that distinct: liquid erythromycin…cherry flavored..  Robbie’s mommy must have forgotten to pour the Cheerios that morning because you never give a kid liquid erythromycin on an empty stomach.  Just a word of advice for any of young parents out there who don’t want their kids to end up on Jerry Springer with some unresolved self-esteem issues when they’re pushing the big 5-0.

Meeeeemories…like the corners of my mind. Misty, water color…never mind.

I wish I had better grade school memories… like, oh, I don’t know….a teacher who tried to inspired me to become something or another?  A teacher so filled with a passion for learning that it motivates even the weakest link in the academic food chain?  The kind that accomplished people thank 30 years later when they’re receiving a profound award?

But no.

I only have memories of incidents involving other children that I prayed would never happen to me.  Kids can be so self-absorbed!

So why this particularly memory?

Hot yoga. 

Hot like an in-fucking-ferno yoga.

For those who have never experienced this unique form of fitness torture, imagine this:

A room full of profusely sweaty people with lots of tattoos smelling of curry twisting themselves into knotted, agonizing positions in a room heated to about 145 degrees with 40% humidity. 

And I PAID for this? 


And during that first, brutal step toward fitness enlightenment, I had but one thought:

Do. Not. Vomit.

The Mouths Of Babes

My sister has been a teacher since the beginning of time.

Actually, both my sisters have been teachers since the beginning of time.

I think they may have actually written their lessons on stone tablets.

I also think they’re both going to kill me for saying that but they’ll have to stand in line and I can only die once, so there.

My sister who teaches the younger set has graciously provided me with some of the more comical comments made by her students over the years.  I doubt that she will be as generous once she reads the stone tablet comment so I’m going to strike while the iron is hot.

From The Greatest Hits collection:

“Mrs. Green, you’re sorta square, like a circle.”  (Personally, I’ve been accused of worse so don’t feel bad, sis.)

“I love you so much I’m gonna come back next year and kick your ass.”  (Whoa!! Not sure how I feel about this one.) 

Are we going to the rabbi to get a crixford book?  (Translation:  Are we going to the library to get a Clifford book?  In this little guy’s defense, there are entire web-sites devoted to mistaken rock song lyrics so this one gets a pass.)

You can’t get milk from bunnies.  (Unless of course, it’s a lactating Playmate)

All kidding aside, I salute teachers everywhere!  You are the idealists and the explorers who inspire us to reach and discover and question; not just as children but as adults as well.  I will never lose my passion to learn because of you and for that,  I thank you.