My mind works in mysterious ways. Of course, if you know me, you probably realized that already. The subject of short-term memory vs. long-term memory fascinates me. If Deb asks me to go to the store to pick up a handful of groceries, it’s inevitable that I’ll return without one or two of the items. She suggests that I write them down . . . This is where I have to pause to de-bunk a rumor that has been trending on social media lately. It deals with four myths about men that state quite clearly:
• Men don’t write things down
• Men never stop to ask for directions
• Men can’t multi-task
• Men never put the toilet seat down when they’re done
Go ahead ladies; use this as a topic of discussion for your coffee break at home with your husbands, or during your daily gathering at your favorite downtown café, or fit it into the conversation at your next book club meeting. See what the consensus is. Have men been unfairly categorized through fake news or do the myths actually describe men accurately?
Now, where was I? Oh, ya. Deb suggests that I write it down, but for some odd reason, instead of taking her advice, I choose to wander through the aisles hoping that the items I’ve forgotten will just leap into my arms.
On the other hand, things that happened more than a half century ago are as clear as a northern Minnesota sky.
I’m guessing that many of you have childhood memories of your elementary years? From Kindergarten through fourth grade I attended the South Side Elementary School in Benson. I still remember all of my teachers’ names and certain things about them – like my 1st grade teacher, Miss Nappin. She had a very definite way of doing things and her rules were not to be questioned. One of those rules had to do with chewing gum in class. It was not allowed and that was final. A permission note from the President would not have carried any weight on that matter. Jerry Plafield made the mistake of challenging her stance on that rule one day and he paid the price. He waited until her back was turned and then he cleverly concealed his Double Bubble bubble gum in his handkerchief and as he pretended to blow his nose, he slipped it into his mouth. He thought it went unnoticed, but that day I became a true believer in the opinion that Miss Nappin had eyes in the back of her head. She let him chew it just long enough to get it soft and juicy and then she called him to the front of the room where he was instructed to remove it, place it on the end of his nose, and stand in front of us as a very visual reminder for the rest of the morning. I felt a little sorry for him, but I was just glad that it was him and not me.
Normally I followed the rules . . . or at least tried to, but in 3rd grade, as we were coming back in from our afternoon recess, I kicked our playground ball up in the air and it didn’t come down. It landed on the roof of the school and immediately the word spread through the group and the consensus was that when the principal heard about it, I would be in big trouble. I didn’t sleep very well that night and in the morning I tried to tell mom that I should stay home because I had a sore throat. She didn’t fall for that overused excuse so before I dragged myself out of the house I found one of those little Golden books and slid it down the back of my pants. I thought if the principal gave me a spanking, it might soften the blow. I never stopped to consider how ridiculous I looked, much less how uncomfortable it was to sit with that book in my pants. The principal never did call me into his office.
Yes, as a child I often found myself in situations, which many times turned into embarrassing moments. They are a permanent part of my DNA. Now I have to admit, many of them were self-inflicted, but I always left the door open for others to initiate my embarrassment, too.
Take our fourth grade operetta for example. Our music teacher, Mr. Skold, informed us that we would be performing the musical Cinderella in the spring of the year. He held try-outs in order to listen to each of our voices, individually. As a result, Parker became Prince Charming and Mary became Cinderella. They both had great voices and deserved the roles they would play. There were six of us who were asked to be the group of tailors that would sew Cinderella’s gown. It was a secondary, but important role so we agreed to it before we knew all the details. Nothing about costumes was ever mentioned during the preliminary weeks of rehearsal.
We practiced our songs so many times we could sing them in our sleep. In fact, now almost sixty years later, I still remember every verse and find myself tempted to leap up on a table and begin singing each time there is a lull in the conversation at a community social event.
If Mr. Skold or anyone else would have even hinted at the fact that we would be wearing long green underwear in front of hundreds of people, Cinderella’s dress may never have been completed and there may not have been a happy ending to the story.
One of the two stepsisters, after singing, “Tis a shoe of wee proportion, but perhaps by some contortion, we can fit it o’er our toes, right beneath the prince’s nose,” might have gone on to become the new princess of the kingdom. And then when Cinderella lamented, “Tis my shoe indeed, but I’ll never with those dames will I . . . I can see me far and wide. Shall I try to wed the prince? The other crystal shoe I’ll hide, in my apron deep inside. None shall notice me retire to the cinders of my fire.”
Could we actually let that happen just because we were too embarrassed to wear our costumes? Cinderella’s happiness and the future of the kingdom had been placed in our hands, and we were not about to let her down.
The laughter began immediately as we shuffled onto the stage. To drown it out, we sang louder. “Here we come a sparkling down to fashion, for Cinderella’s fair.”
We were professionals and we were there to perform. Cinderella was counting on us. We were willing to sacrifice our dignity for the kingdom and if it meant wearing long green underwear to complete our mission, instead of the fancy stylish costumes everyone else was wearing, we would persevere.
Did the critical role I played in fourth grade affect me in any way or was it training for a future profession? The role I played in Cinderella was certainly not training for a future profession as a tailor. No, I would have never excelled as a tailor. I think I would have been just sew, sew. And it certainly didn’t prepare me to be a performer in musicals. In fact, that was the last time I ever appeared in a play.
As to the other part of my question, “Did this role affect me in any way?” I’ll let you be the judge of that, but in my own defense, I have not worn a pair of long green underwear (in public) since the spring of 1960.
I’ll draw this to a close because I have to run to the store to pick up some groceries. I remembered to write them down this time so I wouldn’t forget anything.
Now . . . where did I put that list?
Oh, and if we are ever at the same social event, just make sure there is never a lull in the conversation. I don’t know what would be worse – listening to an old man, standing on a table while singing songs from his 4th grade operetta or watching an old man try to leap up on that table to sing songs from his 4th grade operetta. Either one might be worth the price of a ticket (and a trip to the emergency room).