Then & Now

Like a  Kurosawa film the action was in slow motion.

The windup, the letting go,  it  flies through the air, tumbling over and over until with the precision of a surgeon it hits the target.

The boy in the back row never saw it coming. The eraser hit the side of his face and a mushroom cloud of dust erupted on impact, leaving a chalky imprint in its wake.

One must pay attention if only to know when to duck.

Mr. Robertson had a deadly aim.

Taking an eraser to the head was nothing compared to getting a swat.

A swat. The go outside into the breeze way and wait for me swat.

Getting a swat was only for the particularly egregious crimes, like fighting.

The logic of hitting to prevent hitting is still lost on me.

It usually happened on the play ground. The monitors, with whistles dangling, or ever ready clenched between front teeth, would let loose a sound that any first Saturday of the month this is just a test warning siren would envy.

It was usually  Mrs. Tallman the bus driver, who was anything but tall, or Mrs. Myrick, also short but thick, mean and always had dark sunglasses on so you never knew exactly where she was looking.

It was usually one of them, women who clearly define the term, broads, one  of them would blow the whistle, everybody on the playground froze. It was red light- green light with out any green.

The offenders were called over with nothing more than a nod of the head or a pointer finger slowly repeatedly curling, there were no words.

They would sit out the rest of the recess, while another student was singled out to go to the teacher’s lounge and inform the teacher.

The teacher’s lounge. A mysterious place where it was rumored teachers would shed their fierce skins and take human form.

A single knock, was all it took. Cigarette smoke, stewed coffee  and laughter erupted when the door opened.

It was always dark, and you stood on the outside looking in hoping your eyes would adjust to the darkness before the door was closed,  but it never did.

The message delivered and the door closed.

It comes immediately after recess.

The class falls silent as the offenders exit, each  like a convict going to the chair.

Silent words swim, thank god it isn’t me, thank god it isn’t me.

The paddle hung by the door was taken down and the teacher follows outside.

It’s drilled with holes to decrease wind resistance and covered in signatures, proof of past survivors.

The quiet deepens, we wait, we wait to hear the moment when the wood lands. It echos off the concrete and brick, the snap  gunshot loud, crisp, … crack.

It was the echo that always made me jump.

Did they cry? If they did it was inside, cause we never heard.

The teacher would enter first, the offenders a little later.

Soon it was line up for lunch.

Lunch meant separate lines, boys on one side girls on the other. Walk don’t run, teacher watches, as you grab some gritty pink stuff  and give your hands a scrub. It was more like ajax  than soap,  reddened hands sought spouts continuously spraying, make sure you wash your hands! They always checked…

Through the door smell the rolls, grab a carton of milk.

The more recess, four square, tether ball, and talking to boys on the bleachers.

There was art with Mrs. Clemans, pink magenta with a metallic sheen, the paints she mixed herself  at the back of the room.

We sat in long wooden tables stained with the creative excesses of those who came before. Giant murals were painted, each an old Christmas card divided into squares, we work in teams, our efforts hung in the cafeteria for all to see.

There was a fall carnival, a cake walk, musical chairs and plastic prizes, like the soldier with the parachute who we could never throw high enough to untangle the strings.

There was Mrs. Little Page, silver bun, gravel voice and forever hocking loogies into a kleenex. Miss Lee with her huge purse filled with cough drops, combs and patience, everything a fourth grader would need. Mr. Sennet the original hippy, who rode his bike, and shed more dandruff than was humanly possible. Mr. Floyd the cool teacher I never had, Mr. Cauthen, who remembered my older sister, who he called the hawk, so I became the hawk-ling.

First day 5th grade, standing arms crossed, foot out, “My name isn’t Share-in, its SHAR-IN.”

Eyes do not have to be closed to remember now.

These were then memories, before tax brackets, and labels,

and titles and what do you do really means,

Are you  an important person or a waste of my time?

Gotta love a cocktail party.

It’s now. Time to go, time to see, will I remember them, will they remember me?

Yes.

The boy who made funny faces, had become the man who still did.

The kind girl became the kind woman.

34+ years was not enough to erase faces, all looked similar if not exactly the same. It was easiest to see them when they laughed, the boy or girl who was could not hide then.

Food was ordered and most not eaten. We were filled with laughter, hugs and stories instead.

We stayed long past closing, lingered after in the parking lot, not wanting it to end.

Until now it hadn’t really hit me.

That everyone knew my name.

Shar-in.

Now I wonder when  was it  exactly that I stopped correcting people, and just let it go.

Where had the 5th grader gone with her crossed arms, bossy manner and loud voice?

When was it exactly that I forgot my  own name?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Then & Now

  1. Diane

    I Like it, Shar-in!!

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