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Do you have a minute? You might want to grab yourself a cup of tea…

My baby, she’s eight, she went back to school this week. All my kids did but really who cares about them, I am just worried about my baby. I can’t believe she is going in to second grade already! I remember 2nd grade like it was yesterday…..holy crap before I know it she is going to be 41 and lumpy and sitting at a computer at 6am drooling on herself too.
Mrs. Goosen. That was my second grade teacher. She was and still is, I presume, a presence. She could control a room of eight year olds like nobody’s business. She could yell without yelling, you know anyone like that? You just knew she meant business. She had a very exotic look, dark, thick hair, black smiling eyes. She seemed like the kinda person that went home and hugged her boys to death and then made them a mean bowl of pasta for dinner. She loved us, you could tell. There were rules. That lady had eyes in the back of her head. She never missed anything….except the time Shannon Sweeney stole my pencil. She missed that. But I doubt much else went undetected in her classroom.
I am not sure why I remember 2nd grade in such great detail and the rest of my life is a blank. It freaks me out to think that my baby may have that sort of year too….a year that she remembers everything. I would like it to be good stuff if she is going to remember alot about this year ahead of her. But then some of my not so good stuff, now makes me giggle until snot flies out of my nose and tears run down my face and falls on my muffin top. And maybe truly if I did the research(which I am not going to do) I would find that some of the things I remember as happening in Mrs. G’s room in 1976 really did not happen that year but the year before or the year after. BUT I Sheila Jean, yes that is my middle name…whatcha gunna do bout it, remember it during my year with Mrs. G.
The year of 1976…the year it all happened.
The Bi-centennial. The year of red white and blue ah-oo ah-oo ah-oooo. Who sang that catchy tune anyway? That year Gerald R. Ford was still our President (until the peanut man took over midway through my year), he was from Michigan you know. Actually from Grand Rapids, which is practically my home…well it was the closest big city. He’s buried here. Impressive, heh? The tiny country school that I went to at the time in Conklin, Mi decided it would be a great idea to do a recital celebrating our countries 200th Anniversary. I was given the part of Uncle Sam.

Not sure where the top hat was….

Because of my unusual stature for an eight year old. This Uncle Sam was some sort of a cross between Abe Lincoln and Uncle Sam. It was the beginning of the end of any possible career in acting for me…this was the day that the sweaty pits, severe knee swaying, and dry mouth started. I had to recite a portion of honest Abe’s Gettysburg Address….weird…..who wrote the script you ask? Probably, the hippy forth grade teacher. I was “Uncle Abe” essentially. My mom being very talented at the sewing machine whipped me up a costume fit for Broadway. I had red and white striped pants, a white shirt and a long tailed blue double breasted jacket, and the scarf my mom found was the deal breaker. It was magnificent. And of course top hat. Red, white, and blue, adorned with stars and stripes. What I lacked in stage presence my costume definitely made up for in glam. It was quite a performance. Sweat dripping, swaying back and forth, lip smacking because my mouth was like sand paper, I think everyone in the audience breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the stage.
Then there was “dance lessons”. I guess it was my year for the stage. I was allowed to take dance lessons with a bunch of my church girlfriends. We carpooled. The road we had to take to dance was hilly. This was before seat belts, so Angela, Hope, Tracy, Debi, and I would squish into the back seat. Each week, we pretended we were on a roller coaster, all the way to Mary Lou’s Dance Studio. I can remember sitting all in a row in the back seat, like sardines and seeing the well coiffed hairstyles of our mothers, and the occasional side glance over the seat and them giving us a “you girls stop bouncing around back there, you’re gonna crack heads!”. I think someone actually puked, once in the parking lot, once we arrived at dance class. It was a rush, the ride, to Mary Lou’s dance studio. We took tap, ballet and tumbling. Our recital costume was black net stockings, a deep blue velvet leo with sparkles and a feather on our heads. I do not remember the song, this is bothersome…maybe it was Red White and Blue ah oo ah oo ah oo. Dancing on stage for the first time, was life changing. I still remember standing back stage, and step ball changing our way onto the stage. I do better when I am not on stage alone. We rocked it out that night it was amazing.

Trying on the recital costume.

Shuffling off to Buffalo was in my blood. I had the bug, I could see my future. I was not the most limber 8 year old, but I was bound and determined to get the steps right. I would stand for hours in our small kitchen on the linoleum and practice. Tap dancing my little heart out. But, the year of 76/77 was to be my first and last year of dance. Maybe it was because I drove my mom crazy shuffling off to Buffalo in the kitchen for hours, my mom told me that it was because of my leg cramps that I couldn’t continue to dance. But years later I figured it out, when I enrolled my daughter in dance and had to pay the tuition and recital fee and costume cost. I realized it was not because I had shin splints, or because I drove my parents nuts tapping my brains out on the orange, brown and green linoleum. It was because they couldn’t afford it! Yikes, I was such a brat about it too. Mom didn’t have the heart to tell me, they didn’t have a “pot to pee in” and they couldn’t send me to dance lessons anymore.
My mom’s best friend cut hair…we called her Aunt Marilyn. Aunt Marilyn took some beauty school classes, not sure she ever finished because she was pregnant for 12 years straight..who has time for beauty school when you are poppin’ the kiddos out left and right? But she had just enough classes to get a pink case, that we all sat on when we got our hairs cut. I had, as a child, fantastically thick hair(not anymore because of hormones and stress and because I am aged). It was annoyingly thick hair, with just a touch of curl. Long brown wavy hair. That I unfortunately screamed my brains out when my mom brushed it…..which resulted in my hair getting whacked off by Aunt Marilyn, in second grade. This was the year that the crooked bangs began, and took hold until at least 5th grade.
We had hamsters in our classroom in 2nd grade. I was pretty much disgusted by the rodents. They were boring and made weird scurrying noises that made me jump. I am very, very jumpy. So if the room was quiet, and a hamster scurried I would gasp, and throw my head back with my mouth and eyes wide open. This was very annoying to who ever had to be seated next to me. Which at one particular part of the year was Amy. There were two Amy’s in our 2nd grade classroom, I will introduce you to the other Amy later. Hamster Amy would always say “geesh ya gotta jump like that? it’s just a hamster”. Then one day, if my memory holds correct, during free time Amy picked up the hamstery little beady eyed animal and swirled it around by it’s tale. AND much to mine, her and most of the class rooms horror it’s tale fell off. Only a pitiful stump left. The weird creature didn’t even skip a beat. From that day on I vowed I would never ever have an animal that could tolerate it’s tail falling off. Possibly this is why I have allowed my children to have guinea pigs….they have no tails. Just big erhmms….
I mentioned there was another Amy. I secretly very much disliked this Amy. I say secretly because we were actually friends, kind of. I stayed over night at her house once. She was perfect. Her hair was perfect, her cloths were perfect, everything about her was absolutely and utterly sickeningly sweet. She could also sing like a bird and play the piano. When I sang I sounded like I was dying (some things never change), and I was always rumpled and had crooked bangs and when I went up to show-n-tell I wiggled and forgot what I was going to say and rubbed the chalk board clean with my backside, and I had to wear my Uncle Martys hand-me-downs. Golly just thinking about how pathetic I was gives me hives. I think that sleep over was probably a pity sleepover. There are still people that make me feel this way even as an adult. Like a schlump. The difference is that now I know it’s not their problem, it’s mine. I am sure Amy Sue McDonald….oh even the name was perfect…as I was saying I am sure she never intended to make me feel like a schlump. It wasn’t her fault I had to wear my uncles hand-me-downs that had ugly patches on them and my moms BFF cut my hair crooked and my name was Sheila Jean Fritz.
Elvis died this year and Amy Sue wailed her guts out over it at recess. We were all like “what’s the big whoop”. He was big and fat and old and wore very strange costumes. She said he was handsome and talented and what a loss it was to the institution of music……hmmm really? At the time I couldn’t understand it. (But now I do. I have shed a tear or two over the loss of Elvis and what music could have been if his life had not been cut short.) I can still see Amy Sue huddled outside in the corner by the windows of the third grade teachers room. Mrs. Snow was peering out at us girls making sure we weren’t the cause of Amy Sue’s tears. We were just standing over her our mouths gaping wondering what planet she was from. I was so into Peter Brady and she was all about Elvis.
If you know anything about music history you would know Elvis died in August of 1977, I said I wasn’t going to do any research but I had to googled it. I found out my 2nd grade memory of Amy Sue’s break down over Elvis’s death must have been a 3rd grade memory. But I am going to just keep it filed away where it was in the 2nd grade memory file. It’s been there too long to move now.
Speaking of recess. Have I ever mentioned that I am a bona-fide klutz? Full fledged kamikaze on the play ground kinda kid. I was always hurt. Another thing that made me feel pathetic. I was always dirty from falling. So even if I did wear something half way normal it would be dirty by the end of the day. Like the day I decided, while wearing my one and only “new school outfit”, pink tough skins and a white button down, to swing from the gymnastic still rings. Which would have been totally fine if there had not been a mud puddle the size of Lake Eerie underneath of it. Ten seconds into my routine, my hands slipped and I did the most amazing belly flop known to Conklin Mi. , in that puddle. My mom got a phone call, but she didn’t have a car, so a lot of good that did. I had to wear some cloths from the lost and found box. Lord have mercy on me….

This beauty was our one and only car for many years.

The real kicker was the day I fell off the monkey bars and scraped half my face off. Yes in-deedy-do. Face scraped clean off on the right side. I was hanging by my knees, just minding my own business, loving the way my hair was hanging all long and flowing and whipping back in forth in front of my face. Well I must have let the swinging get out of control, and I must not have had my feet locked properly, because the next thing I knew kaBAM! I landed smack on my face in the gravel. These were the days before nice cushy recycled tires under swing sets…we had a hard core gravel playground. I didn’t even have time to put my hands out, just KApowy right smack on the gravel….head first, feet last. DAM that hurt! To this day, I can still see the playground ladies face looming over me shaking her head and saying “ooooh Sheila”. Like now what kid. You are something else girl. Lucky for me my mom had the car that day and she was home to get the phone call that her daughter had once again had an accident. (We only had one car and sometimes my mom took my dad to work so she could have it.) Could she please come and get her, because they could not bear to look at this dirty, bleeding, klutzy girl one minute longer.
Either this whole incident happened on a Friday or my mom let me stay home a few days to see if my face would heal a bit before she sent me back into germ land. God forbid I get impetigo in that wound, and she knew if anyone would get an infection it was going to be me and it would spread to my eye and I would be blind. That is not what she needed. She couldn’t’ keep me home forever, I did have to go back to school looking like a scab face. I looked like the Phantom of the Opera only with a brown mask not white. The scab started on my forehead went down around the right side of my face and covered half my face to just under my cheekbone, and did I say I bit my lip on the fall too? So I had a fat lip on top of it.
My dad dropped me off at school the day of my return. I can still hear the collective gasp when I made my grand entrance into the classroom. I looked for a photo. There were none. Who would take a picture of there kid looking like that. I never take pictures of my kids wounds do you? I looked for a photo anyway, I did find this one however.
This was third grade…still workin’ on the bangs.

My first love was Peter Schoenborn, his family had a big apple farm. I loved apples and I thought Peter was dreamy. But I was not really girlfriend material back then… large facial scabs and my uncles hand-me-downs and all. Golly, how I liked that boy. I was such a pest. Chasing him all over the playground, taking his basketball away. Peter was shorter than me of course, everyone was. Peter had brown hair and big brown eyes and freckles all over his face. He was Peter Brady reincarnated for me, in my own little Sheila world. He finally noticed me our Senior year of High School. He asked me to homecoming. I went. I wanted to like him, just for the sake of lost time and second grade and all, but it was too late. I had my eyes on someone else….someone who didn’t ask me to the Homecoming dance, of course. Sorry Peter…you will always be my first love.
Have I told you I was an only child up until 2nd grade. Maybe that’s why this year is so vivid to me. It was a life changing year. I had begged, and pleaded with God, and my parents, to bring me a sister. My whole life that is all I wanted was a brother or sister, but mostly a sister. If my parents had a boy they were going to name him Theodore, and I really didn’t think I could bear living the rest of my life with a brother named Theodore. I don’t remember them announcing the pregnancy to me or really making a huge deal out of it. They had lost a baby that went full term. In retrospect I can see they were probably guarding their emotions and not making too big of a deal out of it with me. I do remember it was January, 1977….does anyone remember what a long, hard winter that was? It was one of the rare days we had school. I got on the bus , to go home, and my bus driver told me I had to get off at my Grandma Noreens house, but she did not know why. Hokey Pete! “My mom’s having her baby” I giggled. Because that’s what I do. I am a giggler. Giggling has gotten me in alot of trouble. But I can’t help it. It’s like sweating it is just who I am. I was so excited, I couldn’t stop giggling. My Grandma, thought I had lost my marbles, I remember looking over at her across the table, she lived alone, so it was just me and her waiting to hear the news. She was playing solataire and I was jabbering on about my day and giggling. I remember her saying,
“Sheila why are you laughing so much”.
“I dunno”.
” Well settle down then.” she said.
Somebody was always telling me to settle down. I guess you can add giggly to the list of adjectives that described me as a second grader. Schlump, scabby, klutzy, wiggly, and giggly. The call finally came. I had a sister. Carla Kathleen. She was perfect in every way my mom told me. “You’re going to be the best big sister, see you in a couple days, love you….”

Me and my Seestor, post bad haircut.

The thing was I wanted a sister, really bad. What I found out was I did not want a baby sister. Dang, how could this happen? She was so cute. And she took up so much time, she was always wanting to eat, or be rocked. I wanted somebody to play with me. Finally, I thought I will have someone to play with. What was I thinking. It’s a baby. They need time to grow. About two months after my sister was born, I had a dramatic moment. I was so sick of hearing “look at her, oh isn’t she darling, oh and such a good baby.” Then when my friends came over all they wanted to do was hold “the baby”. Egads….could someone give me a break! My dramatic moment happened after my girlfriend Jodi had been over to play with ME, but ended up holding my adorable baby sister what seemed like the whole time. When Jodi’s mom came to get her, I stormed into my bedroom, and when Jodi was gone I started wailing and carrying on like nobodies business. Pounding my fists, kicking the wall, having me a major fit. But nobody came to see what was going on with me. So I screamed, “I ‘m going to kill myself!!!!!”. ie. this this the dramatic moment.
(I do realize this subject matter is nothing to be taken lightly…and I do not intend for it to be funny…but if you are laughing at me right now that is totally fine, I laugh at all kinds of things that aren’t funny.)
Well the killing myself got my mom’s full attention. She came busting into my room and found me on the floor with a pair of preschool scissors to my neck. I was the definition of a drama queen.
“For heaven sake Sheila, what are you doing?”.
Me, “Nothing.”
Mom “Why do you have those scissors to your neck like that. Give me those. Do we need to call the Priest? Because this seems like there is a problem here. We should call the Priest.”
By this time my mom had sat down next to me, and was giving me the time I wanted, the time I was used to getting after eight years straight of being the one and only child.
“No, I don’t want to talk to the Priest, I want a hug?”
“Sure, but killing yourself is not to be taken lightly Sheila…don’t do something like that again!”
The Priest thing cured me. I never tried to fake my mom out like that again, just for attention. Going to talk to the Priest was like having to talk to God, in person. Scary. For a second grader anyway. But my growing up catholic is a whole different story.
Sometime in the weeks after my sister was born Mrs. G. asked my mom if she could bring me home from school and welcome my new baby sister in to the world. Plus she wanted to drop off a gift. I was so excited, I was going to ride in my teachers car. I had a baby sister, I was now a big sister. I thought I was hot stuff. And Mrs. G. was bringing my sister a gift. I was sure it was something fancy. Like a gold rattle, or an engraved cup or something. I felt so special. Riding home with my teacher. Me in the back her driving with the beautifully wrapped gift in the front seat with her. We arrived at my home to something stinky cooking, it smelled like cabbage and onions in my house. Stage one of my being mortified. And there was laundry all over the couch and my mom was still in her robe. Stage two of my mortification. Stage three of my complete and utter let down and mortification process, was not the fault of my mother. It was the gift that my teacher gave my sister. It was not anything fancy, it was a scratchy blue plaid outfit on a square hanger. That did it. I was over building things up, only to be let down. This was suppose to be a moment. A moment where my teacher brings me home to a clean house smelling like cinnamon rolls, with a clothed mother, and a gift for my sister from my favorite teacher that was not scratchy. Geesh….what was I thinking. Well, at least I didn’t have to ride the cold bus that smelled like musty boots home.
The last day of second grade, It was a sunny day. I remember that. We had all the windows open in the classroom and it smelled like Pinesol. We were cleaning our desks out, emptying them into our brown paper bags that we had brought from home. Mrs. G advised us to each bring a bucket and a rag, to clean our desk with. Not sure what she was thinking because a classroom full of eight year olds and mop buckets sound like a accident waiting to happen.
I was not where I was suppose to be, of course, so when Mrs. Goosen, firmly redirected me. I being the spaz that I was jumped and spun around quickly and tried to dive over a chair and a bucket to get back to my desk. I was at that time sitting next to my sweetheart Peter. So on the way back to my desk in my spastic fashion, I tripped over Peters bucket, and fell into Chuckies bucket. Two buckets dumped. I tried to quickly recover by standing up and giggling “I’m OK, I’ll clean it up.”, but the floor was slippery and I went slamming back down on my bottom. OUCHy momma! My tailbone has never been the same.
I did get a grin and a head shake out of my teacher…she might have even scratched her head and pulled on her ear several times…I know she loved me. Me and my spastic self made her days exciting.
Needless to say, I left 2nd grade with a bang. All in all it was a great year. I fell in love, I got my first facial, and I became a big sister.
There’s more, but you have probably grown a beard by now, so I think I should stop.
Mrs. Goosen you were a great teacher. You were a hugger. A smiler. You encouraged us with them. It’s hard now a days for teachers to get too close or affectionate with kids. Oh my goodness imagine a teacher asking to bring your kid home alone in their car. These were different times.
Where ever you are Mrs. Goosen, I love you, xxxx (hugs)!
I love you all too, I really, really do.

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One Comment

  1. Sheila~
    Happy Saturday! Are your kids wiped from their first week back to school like mine are?? I look forward to reading your blog everyday. You CRACK me up!

    It's so interesting how different people have different perspectives and different memories of growing up. Just an FYI: I, part of a group of your "little sister's" friends, always looked up to you SO much. You were like our own personal celebrity, that we kind of knew just from default. You always looked so cool and seemed so happy and put together. So even though you may have had self-conscious thoughts in your head, you had your own little following & didn't even know it. It just goes to show how you can make a difference in other people's lives even if you don't realize it.

    Write on,
    Erika Betts