Entries in Back in the Day (82)

Thursday
Jul242014

the friend with the GREAT sense of humor...you know, the funny one

Mrs. G. has always been skeptical of popularity, a bit cagey of it's often shallow, slippery nature. It makes her skittish. Maybe it's because she spent her youth on its periphery. While popularity was her desired bright lights and big city destination, Mrs. G. resided squarely in the suburb of close but no cigar. She wasn't unpopular; she was just there...amiable, no trouble, perfectly fine. She was always invited to the party, but she didn't, you know, own it. She stood in the corner with her friend Karen nursing a Bartles and James wine cooler and smoking a clove cigarette. She was worldly though she lived in teeny Tigard, Oregon.

 

When she went to high school, Mrs. G. had a decent time. She had plenty of friends—she ran cross country and was on the speech team. She was a brain, but she was also good-natured and approachable. It's true Mrs. G. had sensational hair, but she was short and stocky and wore fairly thick glasses. She tried contacts but she accidentally swallowed them in a movie theater and her mom wouldn't buy her another pair because money doesn't grow on trees you know, or fall from the sky ferchristssake.  Mrs. G.  wasn't deferential. She was cute enough but not hot...as in hot hot if you know what she is saying... and you do. She was luke warm, fair to middling. It didn't take her long to figure out that she needed to be funny. She needed to be charming and share her impeccable biology notes, so that the hot hot people would occasionally invite her out with them...for entertainment purposes. She could make them laugh while they sat around drinking Big Gulps and looking beautiful. She was the nonthreatening friend.


 

One of the advantages of being a girl with the good personality in high school is that Mrs. G. had no trouble getting dates. She was a guaranteed good time—gracious and grateful, drama free. If there was a dance, Mrs. G. was there with one of her many guy friends. Dancing. Laughing. Her dates were engaging, perfect gentlemen. They gave her frothy pink wrist corsages and helped her fluff up her hair when the humidity of the dance floor made it droop. Her dates were unusually supportive of her commitment to save herself for marriage and often went shopping with her to pick out the perfect dress and matching heels. They were kind and respectful and, Mrs. G. found out a few years later to her genuine, twenty-four carat surprise, gay. Gay gay. She's not sure who was deeper in the closet, likely her since she was genuinely clueless. Mrs. G. slowly came to realize that she might have been the most popular date of the gays in her high school. And to make matters a little more nonsensical, she didn't find out her homecoming and prom dates were gay until she ran into them after college and asked after their girlfriends. Columbo she's not. Mrs. G. often wonders if they took numbers—sorry pal, you had her for the Spring Fling...she's mine for Tolo. And while it's true that she didn't brush up against love until later in college, she also didn't come home disappointed or pregnant. Or with chlymidia. 

 

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Mrs. G. never really felt bad that she wasn't hot hot. She is a genuine believer in the American Dream and making the most of what you've got—she didn't sit around whining or wishing for longer legs or cheekbones...until she got a flat tire in Northeast Portland in 1986. She pulled her car over to the side of the road and hoofed it to a phone booth to call her friend Beth. Beth said she was on her way, so Mrs. G. hoofed it back, leaned against the hood of her car and watched the rush hour traffic go by—car after car after car. Beth showed up a short while later. She had barely pulled her six footed, blue eyed, creamy skinned, down-to-the-waist blonde haired body out of her car and walked six steps toward Mrs. G. before a guy in a red Jeep pulled over and jumped out to offer his assistance.

Mrs. G, who had been standing on the side of the road for over thirty minutes, watched this scene unfold in slow motion and realized that there was only one thing she could do:

be funnier.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Losing Yourself for the Better

Mrs. G. changed his name for privacy purposes but this is really him! Thanks Google.

When Mrs. G. was in college, she was flat out in love with Professor Wright. He didn't know she existed, but how could he when he had at least three hundred students in his Survey of Early American History. Mrs. G. was just a face in the crowd, a face in the crowd that wanted to kiss his at least fifty-year-old cheeks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday when class was in session.

Professor Wright always wore a trench coat and lugged a battered brief case on his way to class. He had unruly salt and pepper hair and was constantly pushing his thick glasses back in place. He read while he was walking around campus, oblivious to those around him. He was a fixture on campus, so most students knew that if Professor Wright was strolling down the sidewalk with his nose in a book, to get the hell out of the way.

If you spoke to Professor Wright out of class or in his office, he came off as a shy, unassuming man who was a little uncomfortable in his skin. It was clear he was most satisfied inside his books. His office was overflowing with them.

But when this shy, unassuming man was lecturing about Agrarianism or the Civil War, he was in his element. He became alive, worked up, nearly beside himself. Every once in a while, when he was really into, say, the battle of Antietam or Shiloh, he would climb up on his desk, swing his arms around and smile, truly stirred by the extraordinary information he was sharing. When Professor Wright climbed up on his desk, the energy shifted in class. Some students, like Mrs. G, were into it, others snickered like he was a wack job, while still others just couldn't wrap their minds around the fact he was standing on university issued furniture. But Professor Wright's goal, Mrs. G thinks, was to bring history to life, fire his students up, and he mostly succeeded. One afternoon, a student had his head down on his desk sleeping, and Professor Wright threw a pencil at his head. Nobody felt bad for the guy because when Professor Wright was standing on his desk, shit was real.

Mrs. G. hasn't seen Professor Wright for over twenty years. She hopes he's still alive walking the streets of Eugene with his face in a book. It's hard not to admire the daring stoutheartedness it takes to climb up on a real or metaphorical desk and share your genuine self, what really makes you tick, even at the risk of being mocked. Professor Wright did that and Mrs. G. thanks him for it. And to this day she has a fervid attachment to personal passions, odd birds and unruly salt and pepper hair.

Monday
Jan132014

Our Fearless Leader by Annie

 


This, in more of a Pilgrim's Progress sort of way, is what my 2nd grade teacher looked like. Even for a rule follower like myself, Mrs. Roach could be and was frequently terrifying.

A stern, pale, and skull-faced woman of late middle age who pulled her hair back in a no-nonsense bun, my teacher wore what were commonly referred to as "cat eye" glasses and her mouth was a horizontal slash of red, courtesy of the House of Avon. She wore dresses with slips underneath, silk hose and high heels with pointy toes. Every single day.  Mrs. Roach pulling her Pontiac into the teacher's parking lot in a pair of stretch pants would have have been no less shocking than discovering an aproned minotaur in a hairnet serving up tater tots in the cafeteria on Hamburger Day. 

When it was time for math, you did not ask why and then pretend to lose your pencil. You had at least five other Eberhard Fabers (always sharpened) in the "side pocket" of your desk which you lined with a brown paper towel so that pencils and crayons didn't fall through the holes. When it was time for handwriting, you did not cleverly substitute the capital "S" in your last name with a treble clef  (even though they sort of looked the same) unless you wanted it circled in red pen with a note to erase and do it over. When it was time to read aloud, you did so in hopes of hearing a "Nicely done!" before she selected another victim student.  That was high praise enough. We didn't need or expect a 21 gun salute and an application to MENSA.

When accused of chewing gum in her class you did not roll your eyes and say, "I don't HAVE any gum" in an exasperated tone which--although-- technically true because you were chewing something, it wasn't gum. It was Captain Crunch. Because you didn't have breakfast that morning (As if that was somehow her problem or responsibility. But go ahead and suggest to her that it was her responsibility and then wait for the Apocalypse.) Better yet, have your parent do it. Same result.

You did not try to be the class clown by burping words to the Pledge of Allegiance or ask her if this was her "real hair" or if she dyed it.  When she asked for your homework you did not fix her with a smarmy grin and tell her you didn't do it because "I was busy".  The only notes you wrote in class had damn well better be from the assignment on "How to Write a Letter To a Friend" and not to your actual friend who had a different teacher altogether who wouldn't have cared if that same friend spent a brief moment of class time reading your synopsis of last night's episode of "The Monkees".

If you were told to carry a sealed envelope home to your parents, you were clueless about its contents and you did not ask. It could have been a letter about a PTA matter or a request to have you publicly flogged. It mattered not because it wasn't any of your damn business because it wasn't addressed to you and hiding it for two weeks inside your copy of Encyclopedia Brown wasn't going to make it go away.  Later, your parents weren't ever going to go all Liza Minnelli crazy when questioning Mrs. Roach like she was at her own trial because you didn't bring the note home. Why?? Because that was a parenting issue and your parents--God love them--were smart enough to know it.  However, your ass would be--as they say--grass even though the note was about being a homeroom mother, you paranoid maniac.

Had the internet existed back when you were a kid, Mrs Roach would have been listed on Wikipedia as the country's seventeenth line of defense. Just ahead of the Boy Scouts.

Mrs. Roach was a teacher, not a convenient doormat to be stepped on by lazy-ass parents who expected her to offer free tutoring for class days missed because of a surprise birthday trip to Carlsbad Caverns which necessitated lying about being sick for two days so that it would be excused. She wasn't about to be trifled with or disrespected during professional development seminars by being asked to remove her teacher hat for the day and pretend to be a student learning the same shit she was already teaching in real class. One didn't tell Mrs. Roach that she would be taking and grading work from any and all children who had sufficient time to turn in their assignments but didn't do so....for five weeks.

And if someone told her that she would be expected to tiptoe around a mentally ill student who hears voices that tell her to do bad things and if said student was demonstrating those bad things in class and began to otherwise act strangely like having a conversation with her own shoeand that she--Mrs. Roach-- was required to halt the educational process for everyone else in the class, hit the panic button on the wall and then step ALONE(?) into the hall with said mentally ill student and wait until help came? Well...Mrs. Roach would have poured those people a big old glass of OH HELL NO and stood calmly while they drank it down with a side of KISS MY ASS cookies. Guaranteed Mrs. Roach did not have to aid her nightly sleep with  five melatonin and a martini chaser because even though she was required to dress like June Cleaver and she was paid like crap and the moral turpitude clause in her contract prohibited her from being seen buying or consuming alcohol, she was respected. By everyone. Or they did a really good job at pretending. Period.

It's not hard to see why my colleagues and I look wistfully into the rearview mirror and sigh before pouring ourselves another stiff drink. Even on a good day, I'm forced to behave less like Mrs. Roach and more like the friendless kid who converses with her sandwich. We live in an era where teachers are everyone's whipping boy and--like my friend Nance says, no one's boss. I live for the days when I can say "no" or "yes" and actually be granted permission to follow through on my own decisions. Sure, I'm allowed to wear pants, but only in the literal sense. Never in the figurative.

But I can hoist a glass and so I do. Here's to you, Mrs. Roach.

 

annie

You can read more of Annie at Rainbow Motel. Go say hey to her!

Wednesday
Dec182013

Joe

When Mrs. G. was a sophomore in high school, she had a crush on a boy named Joe. Like any crush worth its salt, it was unrequited. Joe, a junior, knew Mrs. G. existed but he was regrettably disentranced. While her heart would accelerate when she saw him walking down the hall, nine times out of ten, he would cruise on by in his straight-leg jeans and skinny tie, clueless or careless depending on the day. Occasionally, he administered a scrap of interest -- mainly when he needed a ride. 

In December of 1983, one afternoon when Mrs. G. was driving him home, Joe casually mentioned he might be interested in Mrs. G. Book-smart but not heart-smart, Mrs. G. jumped at the chance to maybe be liked. It was a risk worth taking. He was prime time high school real-estate. He had a Members Only jacket.

Two days before Christmas, Mrs. G. picked Joe up to go to a movie. When she walked into his house to get him, he was digging through a sack.

"I bought a gift today," he said.

"You didn't need to do that," Mrs. G. said, elated.

"Awwwkward. It's not for you."

At the intersection of humor and humble pie, Mrs. G. realized you couldn't force someone to like you. After about four more tries, it sunk in. 

Good old Joe.

Mrs. G. eventually started charging him gas money and moved on.

Sunday
Dec082013

There Ain't No Pause Button in the Throes of Hankering, Part Two.

apartment

Mr. and Mrs. G. went on several dinner and movie dates before Mrs. G. invited him to her shabby studio apartment for a home cooked meal. Looking back, Mrs. G. realizes how crucial those initial nights on the town were for igniting and sustaining the spark necessary to start a five-alarm fire.

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Saturday
Dec072013

There Ain't No Pause Button in the Throes of Hankering, Part One

gcute

When Mrs. G. met Mr. G, she was not looking to fall in love, marry and get pregnant in fifteen months...

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Wednesday
Dec042013

six reasons why mrs. g. would never make it as a saleswoman

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When Mrs. G. was in fourth grade, Blessed Sacrament School had a fundraiser selling See's candy bars. They came in a cardboard carton of ten and were five bucks a bar, we're talking highfalutin, pricy candy. Mrs. G. was ambitious and highly motivated when it came to homework and school activities, but she was tentative about walking up to strangers' doors and trying to hook them up with chocolate.

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Monday
Dec022013

Simone and Enrique

camel

As far back as Mrs. G. can remember, her grandparents never had a visitor stay over night unless they were family, and since that only included about ten people, there was rarely a backlog of guestroom solicitations. Until one summer day when a distant cousin named Simone called Mrs. G's grandmother and asked if she could stay over a couple of days while she was in town attending a conference in Memphis.

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