I tried to conjure days of yore, the days before our work day punch in and punch out was switched to nautical time keeping. The time when we realized the time had indeed come to switch from the stiff, yellow-stained-white long sleeved oxfords of our uniform policy to the stiff, yellow-stained-white SHORT sleeved oxfords. The space between May and June is a tricky one to fill. Having attended the same school with basically the same kids for 8 years meant we had it down to a science.
The hints that our future was shiny and bright often began with an amazing thing called outdoor recess-one that occurred for 4 days in a row without rain. This is when we realized that the saddle shoes STILL weren’t scuffed enough to stop a running gal in place during a game of Rounders or Run-Across or, God forbid, Red Rover-the violent game that would cause chaotic juvenile arrests today. This is when we watched the gym teacher lazily perched on the side wall with a whistle and a bag of Fritos (so unfair!) , chatting with another teacher as we ran and often policed our own fun.
The best part about that playground was that it was an empty church parking lot.
When it wasn’t filled with cars, it was absolute nirvana. BOYS CHASE GIRLS! Someone always screeched and yelled and ran. Everyone followed.
We had Playground Mothers- when I was stuck on some type of playground equipment- between the years 1981-1984- and that large hand bell rang to signal the end, I often found myself calling out tentatively, “Mother?” “Mom?” I can’t remember now if we were told to just call them Mom or what, but eventually one would see me and haphazardly lift me down and I was really embarrassed every time.
I watched with jealousy as other girls and guys who were clearly more gymnastically inclined spinning spinning spinning with one leg wrapped around the bar, arms hooked, never stopping. I cringed and almost barfed when another student flew off the swings on the “jump-off” swing game and broke his leg. I remember one unfortunate 1st grade event in which a school mate peed on the swing seat and wouldn’t move until a Playground Mother swooped in to save the day.
I remember warning others to BACK IT UP!!!! WAYYY UP!!!! when the stars of our group were up to kick during kick ball. We knew everyone’s kick style. We knew who would be the one that acted as though that ball was gonna soar over the building onto Frederick Avenue (now a major road connecting major cities) and actually stopped the ball with the foot and ran like hell for first base.
We knew which girls had the hardest shoes and the longest legs and the boys who were tough ones and the ones who would swoop over when attempting to strike.
We had water fountain lines and no-buttsies. We had a bell ringer and large classroom windows that had no screens. We only had to navigate 2 levels and 2 hallways.
We knew on Wednesday we had confession in the church and some of us would wait, heart beating, destroying nail beds while waiting for our turn. I would finally be ensconced in the confessional and confess things like, “I told my Dad I turned the TV off when I really didn’t…” and dutifully counted off my penance prayers on my fingers while watching the rest of the class enter and exit the booth. Our biggest scandal was having the priest snoring on the other side of the mysterious grate.
I imagine that at this time, our teachers, as well, were counting down with as much, if not more, enthusiasm as we were. The last minute assignments meant to push the grades up a notch went in and came out of their boxes with alarming speed.It was a time that I miss. I didn’t even know how much until now as I sit, prepping for my day as a teacher, 13 days before the end. The Countdown Continues.