The works of the Longview Memoirs were authored by residents of Longview, a senior living community with close ties to Ithaca College. Run by Ithaca College professor Marella Feltrin-Morris, the workshop occurs every spring.
I. TABLE GRACE
In 1931 when I was 5 years old, Mother, Dad, and I (brother Dick joined us in 1932) lived in Bucyrus, Ohio. Dad worked at the family operated Golden Rule Baby Chick Hatchery with his Father, Mother, Brother, Brother-in-law, two Sisters, and his Aunt. Since Dad hardly ever came home for lunch, Mother made the evening meal special, serving it in the dining room on our good china, and Dad always said grace. The grace he invariably said was: “Our Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for this food. Bless it to its intended use and us to Thy service. Amen.” Dad never improvised.
One evening an idea came to me. I could say grace. Why not? I had heard Dad say it every night of my life. I asked my parents’ permission. They were delighted at such a mature request from one so young and proudly gave their consent. We folded our hands, bowed our heads, and I began: “Num-a-num-a-num-a-num-a-num-a-num a-num a-num. Amen”. There was silence. I squirmed in my chair, thoroughly puzzled. At last Mother broke the silence and asked why in the world I thought repeating “num-a-num” was a prayer. My reply: “Well, that’s what Dad always says.” From then on Dad enunciated a bit more carefully, although to me the last sentence always sounded like “Bless it toots intended yutes.”
In 1931 my family lived in Bucyrus, Ohio, and in December I would celebrate my sixth birthday. That momentous event allowed me to enter the first grade. My neighborhood school was a huge old brick fortress about four blocks from our house. Broad cement steps led to impressive double doors. The school was two stories high with tall arched windows all around, and the first grade classroom was to the left as one entered.
Opening day arrived at last. I bid my Mother goodbye and walked happily to school. Upon arrival I bounded up the steps to the classroom, and there was my teacher, Miss Sickle, who greeted each pupil warmly and told us where to sit. There were no desks. Students sat at tables in groups of five or six.
Time flew by as it does when one is having fun, and it was soon lunch time. Schools did not have cafeterias in 1931, nor did children bring their lunch. They went home. Miss Sickle’s custom was to call the children to the door and say good-bye to each in turn. When my turn came I greeted her with, “Goodbye, Miss Icicle.” I thought it was hilarious; Miss Sickle did not. She told me to return to my table. She also told me to stop flipping my handkerchief at the other boys, a pastime we had enjoyed that morning. When I returned to my seat the children regaled me with vivid descriptions of the punishment Miss Sickle had in store for me. Why would Miss Sickle, who had been so nice all morning, suddenly become an ogre? I had to devise a plan that would allow me to escape her wrath. Aha! An inspiration! It was a beautiful day, the windows were wide open, and if I jumped I would be safe. Stealthily I watched Miss Sickle. When her back was turned I ran to the nearest window and surveyed the scene below. The leap would be from a frightening height, but the fury of Miss Sickle was even more frightening than the leap from the window. Bravely I mounted the window sill, closed my eyes, hoped for the best, and jumped. There was no pain! I had survived! But a huge problem remained. I had to tell Mother that I had tried school, didn’t care for it, and was never going back. Never.
When Mother asked, “How was school?”, I told her it was awful and I would never return. Unbelievably, Mother was not sympathetic. After lunch she placed a pretty little bud vase in my hand and told me to give it to Miss Sickle and apologize. My response: “No! Never!” Mother decided that was not acceptable, and once Mother made a decision not even a tantrum could change it.
I reluctantly followed Mother’s orders and walked back to school, worrying all the way about the punishment Miss Sickle had planned for me. Upon arrival I timidly mounted the steps and there she was, waiting for me. I cast my eyes to the floor, fearfully extended the rose, and mumbled “I’m sorry.” Then out of the blue, a miracle! Miss Sickle actually smiled, thanked me for the rose, and told me to take my seat. School was as much fun that afternoon as it was in the morning. When class was finished for the day and it was my turn to leave I said politely, “Goodbye, Miss Sickle,” and, a bit wiser than I had been that morning, happily walked home.