Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Prince of Tides Lunch

I have a really sad story to share which is unusual for me since I like to keep things light and happy, but I feel the need to write about this so I'm going to do it here.

I was back in my home town over the Christmas holiday and had lunch with a friend from school who I haven't seen in 31 years. We weren't close friends and didn't hang out together after school, but we did have classes together off and on from 1st-12th grade. I was very shy and socially awkward in school (okay fine, I still am!) and Debi was very friendly and outgoing but she was always kind to me and I appreciated her very much for that.

We had a really nice lunch, gave each other a brief synopsis of the past 31 years, and reminisced about a time when our thighs were smaller. We both had the same homeroom teacher in first grade but when Debi asked who my homeroom teacher was in second grade I couldn't remember. This has always been an issue for me because I used to be able to list all of my homeroom teachers from 1st-12th grade except for my second grade teacher...never could remember who it was.

Debi informed me that I had Mrs. Beelzebub because she did too. Obviously her real name is not Mrs. Beelzebub but you will see that it's an appropriate pseudonym.

When Debi asked if I could remember any specific incidents from second grade I couldn't come up with any. I do remember an incident in first grade involving another student being injured but other than that I can't recall anything specific until maybe 6th grade. Debi has a memory from second grade that involves me but it's not a pleasant memory and she was reluctant to share it for fear it might upset me. I'm sure I have forgotten more than one unpleasant memory but I remember a lot of them too so I assured her it was fine.

Debi's first memory of me was when we were sitting in Mrs. B's class and I raised my hand to ask if I could go to the bathroom. In first grade we had a bathroom in our classroom that we could use as needed but in second grade we were given scheduled bathroom breaks. It was not time for the bathroom break so Mrs. B told me no. A few minutes later I raised my hand again and asked if I could go to the bathroom. Again, Mrs. B said no, I would have to wait until the bathroom break.

You can see where this is going, right? Mrs. B wasn't very bright and clearly had no idea how a child's body works.

Debi said the third time I raised my hand I was bouncing in my seat, I seriously had to pee. And for the third time Mrs. B told me no, I would have to hold it until the bathroom break. Obviously I peed my pants. It happens, right? When a kid tells you they need to go, they need to go!

Evidently Mrs. B somehow thought that peeing my pants was my fault and I should be punished for it. She made me go get a mop from the janitor then she made me clean up my own pee in front of the whole class while still wearing my wet pants. Debi asked Mrs. B if she could help me but she was denied, I had to do it by myself.

Debi said the whole incident seriously traumatized her and apparently every other kid in the class as well. She said everyone was so affected by Mrs. B's cruelty that no one ever made fun of me for it. That says a lot. Kids rarely pass up an opportunity to make fun of one of their own.

Absolutely horrifying, right?! The whole time Debi was telling me this I was thinking...oh my gosh that's horrible! I feel so bad for that little girl! Oh wait. It was me.

Nothing Debi said triggered any kind of memory for me, which is probably a good thing. And I know she's still wondering if she should have kept it to herself but I am SO glad that she didn't. It actually explained a lot, including why I never could remember my second grade teacher's name!

This happened around 1973-74 and things were a lot different then. Can you imagine that same incident happening today? That teacher would be facing criminal abuse charges if the parent didn't kill her first. I don't know what happened to Mrs. B but picturing her in this scenario brings me comfort:

Hortus deliciarum manuscript
After our lunch I texted my sister since she is the keeper of our memories. She had no memory of me peeing my pants but she remembers peeing her pants in first grade and having to wear someone else's clothes for the rest of the day. She said it's a miracle we weren't known as the Pisser Sisters. I nearly busted a gut. My sister is the funniest person I know.

I texted my mom and asked her if I peed my pants in second grade. I believed every word Debi said but was hoping to maybe get more information or another perspective. My mom's response was, "I think so. OMG I tried to forget."

Okay, so it pretty much traumatized everyone involved and clearly my mother is extremely proficient in teaching her children the art of the repressed memory!

I was always shy and quiet in school and Debi wondered if that incident had something to do with it. A second grader peeing her pants at school is bad enough but the way that teacher handled it is sure to leave permanent scars. I told Debi that I feel sure it did have an impact on my social development or lack thereof. But compared to what I experienced at home as a child it was really pretty minor. How sad is that?!

I experienced a lot of terrible things growing up but at the time I honestly didn't realize that they were not "normal". I thought every family was like mine so if you ask me if I had a good childhood I would say yes. I didn't understand how messed up it was until I was grown but I don't have any regrets or remorse about my family's dysfunction. We're all half-baked and that's okay. All those traumatic childhood events were necessary for me to be the person I am today. I am still shy and socially awkward but I'm perfectly comfortable in my own skin. The messed up person I am today is necessary for me to become the person I will be tomorrow.

Life is like puzzle where each piece is an event from our lives. It takes all of those pieces, good and bad, to complete the puzzle. That means that we sometimes have to pull our skeletons out of the closet to see where they fit in our puzzle.

So thank you, Debi, for taking that skeleton by the hand and gently guiding it out of the closet. I didn't even know it was there but I'm a big proponent of freeing all closet skeletons.

I don't know who said this but it has always been one of my favorite quotes:

I am a portrait of my past, a painter of my future. 


VickiRossArt said...

Awww. I wanna give that 2nd grader a big hug...and smack that teacher right where it hurts. But, I agree with you that even tho repressed, that event is part of the Shannon we know and love! And, you always make me laugh. Xxoo, vicki

Linda Ann Smith said...

An eloquent portrayal of a tragic event, even if you cannot remember. Caused me to recall my second grade teacher.

It is a miracle that I loved school in spite of her. Hated every minute of her class, but loved learning! And became a teacher! And remained in education for over 40 years!!! Overall I think we have all had bad experiences in school (There is plenty of time for a bad experience since we spend at least 12 years there !) and some people hold that against the schools/teachers all of their lives. Surely along the way they had some wonderful experiences also? But they have learned from those horrid moments not to trust any school or teacher.

As far as school goes, I would definitely still be a full time student if someone would finance that! And BTW I still think of Mrs. Hamilton (I remember her name!) with the upmost of disrespect because I could never get over her putting Michael under her desk and kicking him if he moved or made a noise. Horrifying! Michael was an underprivileged child with learning problems. I have tried to find him on facebook/asking around in my home town... without success. Compared to his experience...her mistreatment of me was minor.

HUGS to the little girl who peed her pants in 2nd grade!!! If that made you who you are today, I suppose it was worth the journey....because I have high regard for that woman! Thanks for sharing,

Surly said...

Wow. What a story. My second grade teacher was nick named mrs banana witch. I can still remember a kid asking to to the laboratory. The teacher insisted we call the bathroom the lavoratory. The poor kid thought there was a laboratory he could go play in. He was teased for years. Not as traumatizing but still. So many teachers were awful back then.

Dianne Blake said...

I agree that those past experiences give us an opportunity to react and become who we are. I had a dreadful 4th grade teacher and a wonderful 8th grade teacher. We moved about every 6 months, so we were always the new kids in school - and you know how they are treated. But I always loved learning and today I write training for adults in corporate environments. I'm always learning something new. Yes, the past can shape us, but hanging on to the bad things can cripple us. Finding new paths can free us. Sometimes it takes the past to humble us and give us empathy for others - making good of what was meant for bad. Thank you Shannon for sharing.

Peg Robinson said...

Wow Shannon, grade school past was a nightmare. I remember the first grade teacher with the knuckle cracking ruler. Then the sixth grade art teacher with fingernails that left impressions in your shoulders. How did I ever like art after she was done with me. Lol. We are a product of our past. Hopefully we learned NOT to follow their examples. You are so giving and generous. Even in this sad story, we all can take something away that has meaning in our lives. Thanks for sharing. And yes, I am sure there are a few people we have encountered that we think deserve some time in the inferno. Karma will prevail.

Elsa said...

Thank you for sharing this Shannon. I find it fascinating how the psyche can block what was surely a horrible and humiliating experience so that you don't remember it. Surely it marked you, as we are all marked by our experiences, good and bad.

I too was a very shy child. I generally kept a low profile in school, hoping not to be noticed. I failed at that in second grade: apparently I developed an upset tummy once I got to school. Had I complained at home, for sure my mother would have kept me home; she tended to spoil and fuss over me, being the youngest. Anyway, that tummy ache progressed to the point that I knew I needed to head for the bathroom very soon. The rule for that teacher was that if we had a request to go the bathroom, after we held up our hand and she called on us, we were to stand up and state our request. I don't remember if I ever got any words out, because as soon as I stood up, my stomach decided it was time, and up came everything, all over my desk and my new workbook with the red cover. My memory blanks at that point. I'm not sure if I had to help clean up, or if I walked home, or my mom came and got me. All I remember is that the workbook got wiped off, and I used it the entire year, LOL!

Shannon Green said...

Thanks everyone!

Vicki, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment...I can always count on you!

Linda, I always hated school despite being a very good student. Now I see why!

Surly, Mrs. Banana Witch just cracks me up! And it's her fault that poor child got teased cuz nobody says lavatory anymore. Sheesh!

Dianne, I love learning new things now that I'm grown but I still don't like a structured classroom-type environment where there's a clear line between teacher and student. And now I know why! :)

Peg, I hate to admit it but sometimes karma makes me a lot happier than it should!

Elsa, I hope it's okay to laugh now because you made me LOL! Not at the idea of getting sick at school, that had to have been horrible. But by gosh nothing was gonna stop you from using your new red workbook!

ktorrisi2000 said...

My sister's first grade teacher did that to her. She instructed her children that if a teacher told them no, go anyway. She would deal with the teacher. I bet she instructed her grandchildren to do the same.
Katherine Torrisi

Laine Murphy said...

The same thing happened to me. Second grade, Mrs. Campbell. Had to clean it up and everything. I was never made fun of by the students either, but my last day in high school, several kids took the time to come up to me and ask me if I remembered it. Yes, I remembered. But I was hoping (wishing, praying) that no one else did - but they did and took the time ten years later to remind me. My humiliation was complete. I've never gone to a class reunion.

donnaj said...

I had a 7th grade math teacher. each yr he "picked" one kid (in each class i assume) that he picked on. threw their books on the floor with a flourish, made them get on the floor, hands and knees and count the tiles-you get the picture. The person he picked was a friend. I don't know why no one ever went and "told" on him, guess we were too afraid. I felt sorry for Ty every time he was in the spotlight. Mr Flores made a comment to me one day when i had a sprained finger. i was supposed to tape 2 finger together-and alternate which side i taped. He noticed and questioned if i even hurt it. asshole. The following year my brother was his "chosen." I remember my parents had a meeting with him for some reason and i gladly told them what kind of person he was and that he did this the yr before w/someone they knew. I hope he actually got into some kind of trouble. if not, i'm sure karma got him at some point.

donnaj said...

ps-i remember all my teachers-i always got the "cool" ones :)

Shannon Green said...

Laine, that's absolutely heart breaking, I'm so sorry.

Donna, karma always comes through for us.

Laine Murphy said...

Thank you, Shannon. I'm a big believer in your past experiences making you the person you are today and all of the mess that was my childhood (major issues there) have turned me into a compassionate person who I'm getting to like rather a lot. But I don't waste my time with people who don't value me and i have learned to leave people behind with no regrets. It's made my life so much happier.