I’ve been going down memory lane a lot lately.
Someone had the brilliant idea of having an elementary school reunion the day of our high school reunion. Most of the kids came together in the third grade and I joined them in fourth. We went all the way through school together. For many of the years , there were only two classes so we got to know each other well.
Like kids straggling in after recess, we’ve been joining our Facebook group and sharing memories. Playing Greek dodgeball and the day a kid broke his arm. Lunch-boxes and Tang and space food sticks. All of the plays and musicals we put on, from Antigone to the Mrs. Frankenstein pageant, from the Wizard of Oz to a Rodgers and Hammerstein review. The Scholastic Book Club, one of the finest inventions known to humankind.
We laugh now about the year we studied tobacco, going to a farm and a tobacco warehouse and finally to the plant where cigarettes were being made. (Did I mention we were in Winston-Salem?)
Some of us can still spout off Mrs. Womble’s list of helping verbs. Some of us have never forgotten the lesson the day we learned about prejudice. (Blue eyed kids had to eat last.) For my part, I can still recite “Grandpa Dropped His Glasses,” along with the somewhat theatrical inflection we were taught to use.
Mostly we talk about how lucky we were, to have had the teachers we had and to have had each other. We were lucky to be in a place and a program in which creativity wasn’t just shoehorned into a few minutes a week after all the “important” subjects had been covered. And creativity wasn’t just for the students; it was allowed for teachers as well.
Sometimes people will ask me how long I’ve been a writer. If I’m truthful, I guess I have to go back to those days at Brunson School. (Incidentally, just before writing this I read the glowing New York Times review of the latest book by one of my classmates. That writing thing really took for some of the kids.)
Here’s what I really learned in those days at Brunson:
I learned that being creative was fun and something that I could do, even if I wasn’t as creative as Billy. (No one was. Or is.)
I learned that books were very wonderful things (a lifelong lesson reinforced in my book-filled home.)
I learned to use my mind to think and not just regurgitate facts.
I learned that it was okay to challenge myself and okay for some things to be hard and if I didn’t succeed, it was okay to keep trying. (Yes, Iris, I realize that’s a run-on sentence.)
I learned that the gift of being good friends with good people in childhood is a very great gift indeed.
I know that it’s a different world in schools these days. After all we came along after the nuclear war and before the mass shootings disaster drills so we only had to worry about fire or tornados. I know computers were not yet invented for us to learn and the Vietnam War was a current event.
But how I wish every child could learn those same lessons that I learned at Brunson.
All I can say is that they’ve certainly served me well.