I flip the calendar. Nothing earth-shaking, but I realize the annual “Teacher Appreciation Week” in late spring was another nice practice eliminated by COVID-19.
Nevertheless, though long retired, I recall many thoughtful gestures from students and their parents. Reflection continues.
I laugh aloud at one memory. Did this really happen?
I’m going to recall it here as a tribute to my wonderful former colleagues — and all high school teachers who have ever done goofy things for the cause of “school spirit.” Or will do again one day.
Spirit Week at Uni High! A different shenanigan a day. Pajama Day, School Colors Day, Beach Day, Twin Day.
Latin teacher Magistra Frances Newman approached.
“Rosemary,” she said. “I have the same duck-patterned blouse you do. I’ve just never worn it to school. Let’s go as twins!”
Frances believed in participation to the max. She ran a very popular annual Coliseum Games to raise money during Charity X-Week. She herself “drove” one of the cardboard “chariots” pulled by students.
She’d change into sweats, buckle on a helmet, and board a repurposed refrigerator box pulled by a hefty upperclassman. She’d yell something like, “Ad finem! Vox victoriae! Currite, currite, equi!” (“To the end! The voice of victory! Run, run, horses!”)
We agreed to wear the twin duck blouses with brown straight skirts. Frances added, “We ought to DO something entertaining — like a song-and-dance routine for our classes.”
She proposed a vaudevillian grapevine step while singing “Side by Side” in English and Latin, miming lifted top hats at the end. Delightfully silly. I agreed.
On Friday morning, I went to Frances’ office. Our jaws dropped. We were wearing different blouses! I had thought she meant my L.L. Bean dark-green cotton blouse with stylized decoy ducks. But she was wearing a silky paisley pattern with fine-line ducks in flight. Yes, I had that one, but I thought of the other as my “duck blouse.” I’d never seen Frances in the paisley one.
We laughed madly. We groaned. “What can we do?”
Obviously, I was the one who had to change. My schedule allowed me time to drive home and switch to the paisley. But, I had dropped my car off for servicing and taken the bus from there to school.
I hustled to the English office and asked my colleague Dorothy to drive me.
“I can’t,” she replied. “I’m off to class. But use my car.”
I had been in her car before, a tidy, compact Ford.
“Anything I should know about it?” I asked as she handed me the keys.
“Nope. It’s automatic,” she said. “Anybody can drive an automatic.”
I was soon behind the wheel. A few minutes later, I pulled into my driveway.
What the —? I couldn’t switch off the ignition! The key simply wouldn’t turn. Totally puzzled, I tried other gears, but to no effect.
Well! At least the car was safe while I ran in and changed to the paisley duck blouse.
I worried about what to do when back at school. I recalled our German teacher, Herr W., amusing us with stories about his Yugo, which ran well but wouldn’t shut down — a cheap new foreign car. But, for heaven’s sake, this was a Ford!
I desperately willed for somebody I could trust to come into the Springfield Avenue parking lot and stay with the car till I got help. Nobody came. I heard the bell ring. I left the motor running and timed a dash to the English office.
It worked. I grabbed Dorothy and explained.
“Oh,” she said. “Sorry, I didn’t think to tell you. You have to put your foot on the brake before you can shut off the ignition.”
Amazingly, I hadn’t done that in my agitation and gear-changing flurry. Driving a stick-shift car myself, I was unaware of new car-safety features.
Frances now grabbed me. “Move! We can do it!” We raced off.
We pulled off our soft-shoe routine in English and Latin. Frances really hammed it up. The students laughed and clapped.
We paraded in the gym at noon with all the other “twins.” We didn’t win a prize.
I thought of Ford’s then-current ad slogan: “Ford Finds a Better Idea First.” Maybe. But that didn’t guarantee that the driver of an old car would “automatically” know how they carried it out.
However, I wasn’t complaining.
“Finis Bona.” — “All’s well that ends well.”