Friday, September 10, 2004

old friends cropping up

I wrote to an old friend I had been searching for - for 10 years. Finally found her. I wrote to her expecting a reply within minutes. I waited. one day. two days. three days. Nothing. Maybe she was startled by the subject line "found you!!". It' scary, especially if you think income tax is after you. So she may have deleted it. I shared my dilemma with a mutual friend who said "See what LA does to you?" I wrote her a second time. Finally - a short reply. 3 sentences. Perhaps she hates typing. I find it relaxing. We both went - together with this mutual classmate of mine who lives in Jerusalem now too - to this ultra-orthodox school in the Bronx. I was 5 1/2 when I started first grade. It was traumatic. I had no idea what was flying. I hadn't gone to nursery or kindergarten. When I got there, everyone knew each other and I felt like the odd man out. Sitting in a classroom bored me. This Jewish school hired old Irish teachers for secular subjects which I thought was funny. Mrs. O'Neill was one of them. I fell asleep in her class, which every one of my classmates remembers to this day. We had a mixed bunch of girls - some were very orthodox - some were secular. Most lived in the South Bronx but eventually moved away in the late sixties when the neighborhood began to change into a more African-American one. I had one abusive teacher in second grade. At that time the teachers were always right. Who could complain about a teacher throwing you against a blackboard or emptying out your briefcase full of pencils and books and humiliating you. I don't think anyone complained and the principal surely did see a group of us crying nearly every day. It was awful. There was only one decent teacher in that school - our sixth grade teacher - Mrs. Leibreich, whose love of teaching us was infectious. She was strict, but not abusively so. She was blind in one eye. We had a crazy teacher, a Rabbi, who when we didn't behave would chase us around the room and would foam at the mouth. We used to ask him for open book tests, which he gladly acquiesed to rather than argue with us. We were totally abusive to this poor sod. His son ended up marrying one of my neices many years later. When we heard about that, we were all pretty embarrassed. (He had taught both my brother and sister too - and was given a difficult time by all) But the man didn't call off the wedding. His looks reminded me of Spiro T. Agnew. I had unfair teachers and didn't learn to speak up until 8th grade. One failed me consistently until I complained to the principal that she never called on me for the oral exam so how could she have failed me? It was very difficult for me to speak up on my behalf. It was so much easier to have everyone step over you. I wasn't one of the most popular kids, although in 7th grade became close friends with the most intelligent one of the whole lot. She would cry if she got any grade under 97. I was really proud of our friendship because I had felt really stupid throughout those school years. but if someone as intelligent as her could be friends with me, perhaps there was hope for me as well. Our friendship continued throughout high school, although I dropped out of the high school we went to together, as it was too difficult for me to stay up until 1 am studying. Not worth it for my teen years, I thought. I wanted to party, party, party. I opted for a more lenient high school further away in the Lower East Side. But when my friend finished college, she went to NYU law school and invited me to room with her in the dorm for the summer. I know NYU has a slew of students who have committed suicide in recent years, but that was the last thing I wanted to do then. I was elated. I was 21 years old. Happy as shit to be away from my folks and spend my summer in Greenwich Village. My parents had no problem with my friendship with her because she came from a very religious home. They still thought she was religious. At her dorm, we fried up bacon for the very first time. I poured in oil, thinking all frying had to done that way. We shrieked as we saw the oil come up to the top of the frying pan. We went to every rock concert in NYC that summer and even before that since 1975. She began dating a nice Italian guy, kept it secret from her family. I kept her secret with her. After receiving offers from many law firms, she took the one furthest away from her family in LA. I had not seen her since. But I do hope I get more than 3 sentences from her soon.


Anonymous said...

Wow...I thought my school years were awful...and they were, but not to the degree yours were. I lived in California till I completed 8th grade...and attended public school all but one year in which I had a lot of fun, but learned absolutely nothing. Then we moved to Idaho...which was Paradise by comparison. I had the most fantastic year of my life the first year we lived there...then we moved farther south, but still in Idaho and it was not as good but still so much better than California...and I was able to attend a private school for the last 3 years of high school and it was good. Plus they taught us very well so that college was not much of an adjustment as to the work load. Plus being in choir and a trio that was allowed to leave school on ocassion in order to go sing was lovely! But I could write a book on the horrors experienced those first 9 years of school. My problems were more the kids than the teachers, though I had a couple of humdingers! I was preparing to teach actually when my hubby convinced me to marry him instead and I never got back to college and finished. I wanted to be a good teacher and make a difference. Well, I did homeschool the older 2 for several years and the youngest up until she began college. All 3 have been honor students so I guess in a way I did get to teach, eh? HA! And now...NOW...forget it! No way would I want to enter a classroom these days, especially in public school. Poor kids...and poor teachers and poor parents...a royal mess! Aren't you glad to be a grownup now though? I would not relive my school days for all the wealth in the world! Life has been better afterwards..though far from perfect...still better! I hope you and your friend can connect well. Elizabeth

timx said...

What was considered normal in those days would be considered abuse now! Looking back on my school days (as a boarder from age 7) I am amazed that anyone could have thought that that was how to educate children.
Perhaps the three sentences is because your friend is embarrassed by some of those shared memories. You'll have to wait it out - it's her move!