The History Test: Random Memory #3

Let’s just get into it, folks. (See other random memories here and here, if you’re wondering what this random memory thing is about.)

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was in a pretty interesting History class. Interesting because my teacher, Mrs. G., was probably one of the more quirkier teachers I’d had in a long time. She was excited about almost everything, pretty corny, and fairly melodramatic. It didn’t take long realize that I loved her to pieces. Why? Because, overall, she was firm when she needed to be, an open lover of learning (especially History, naturally), and just fun. And guess what? That was me as a student: I loved the discipline of school, I loved learning, and I loved fun in a classroom. There you go. But this random memory isn’t a love-fest about my old teacher. It’s about something significant that happened in Mrs. G.’s class.

It was test day. When it came to any class that wasn’t Math, I studied hard. No, seriously, hard. Not only did I want to do well, but I had a deep love (still do) for History. So I wanted my A. Anyway, I took my test and felt pretty confident about it. The next day, Mrs. G. asked me to stay after class. I remember gazing at her in confusion, like, stay for what? To be praised for my A? Like, did nerds stay after class? Because I was a nerd and an obedient one, at that. Further compounding my confusion, she asked another student to stay, as well. We’ll call him N.B. So N.B. and I were sitting there, waiting, wondering. At least I was. Once class was dismissed, Mrs. G. stood before us and, in hushed tones, announced that she felt that one of us had cheated on our tests.

I almost laughed.

I regarded her, half-smiling, waiting for her to pronounce judgment on N.B. After all, everyone knew that he didn’t even try to be a good student. He was more famous for starting fights in hallways than studying. When she remained silent, I felt my oxygen depleting. She was waiting for one of us to admit to it. But did Mrs. G. seriously believe that I had cheated? Me, who took rabid notes during class? Me, who laughed at her silly jokes? Me, who did my homework faithfully?

Even worse: N.B. then says, at the top of his lungs, that it wasn’t him that cheated. My heart racing, visions of my intense studying running through my mind, I also inform Mrs. G that I didn’t cheat on the test.

Mrs. G: Well, someone cheated.
Me: It wasn’t me.
N.B.: It wasn’t me.

Eventually, to settle the issue, she requested that we each re-take the test. Notably, she sat us far, far away from one another. (In case you haven’t guessed, N.B. sat next to me in class.) I nearly pounced on the paper when she handed it to me. Minutes later, I handed the completed test to her and almost near tears, walked out of class. If you guessed that I told the story at length to my friends, decrying the injustice of it all, you would be right. I was incredulous that one of my favorite teachers would believe this about me.

Later, I received my test back. I got my A. We never spoke about it again–until the last day of school. A bunch of friends and I went back to her class to say goodbye at the end of the school year. Needless to say, I certainly didn’t plan on joining the chorus of goodbyes and we loved your class; I intending on merely standing there and giving her the stink eye for not believing in me. But that plan didn’t work. Perhaps it was the bravado that came with almost being a junior. Perhaps it was because I was still pretty hurt and angry and confused. Whatever it was, I waited for a lull in conversation and came out with it. “Mrs. G, why did you make me re-take that test?” I questioned. She smiled. I’ll never forget her reply. “I knew N.B. cheated off your paper. Only you would give me the full answer for a question and give me more information in parentheses. His answers were identical to yours, so it was clear he had copied off you. But the matter needed to be settled.”

A million years later, today, I finally get it. I truly didn’t get it back then, but I accepted her reply and we made up. Now, however, it’s quite clear: it was important not to openly accuse this young man of cheating. It was important to give both of us the benefit of the doubt. And that’s the bottom line. In the end, it didn’t feel great at the time, but looking back, I realize that she did believe in me. Means a lot, even now.

Storytelling and Nursery Rhymes.

In the end, I think it was inevitable that writing would become my passion. Starting from the beginning, my fascination with words and stories was engendered by the original, the best, and the most compelling storyteller of them all: my mother.

I remember watching her when she would tell a story. Her voice would dip into this low, quiet register. Every emotion that the story called for would pass across her beautiful face, causing the listener, particularly me, to breathlessly wait for the denouement. I’ll never forget the tale of her friend, Peace, whose life was turned upside down when she married a man no one wanted her to marry. I remember the stories of Anansi the spider, of the fables of Aesop, of curious events and people. Each and every time, my mother would weave the story as if it was happening right before my wide eyes. I was quickly intoxicated. She also read us fairy tales and nursery rhymes. To this day, there are some rhymes that I know by heart, by rhythm, by sound, all traceable to those times when my mom would read to my sister and me. A few of my favorites:

This fabulous lady and her girls. Me on the left, my sis on the right. Back in Ghana.
This fabulous lady and her girls. Me on the left, my sis on the right. Back in Ghana.
Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there’s none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.

When one of my friends requested that, for her baby shower, we gift her newborn with books, I immediately purchased a copy of nursery rhymes for her. Before wrapping it, my mom and I reminisced about those old days and all the rhymes I could still remember. I could definitely see how happy that made her.

I often credit my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Madeline Chrytzer, for starting the journey of my life as a writer. One afternoon, after running to her desk and professing my love for books and reading, she gazed at me with a smile on her face and said, “you know, you can write books too, one day.” I’ll never forget that moment; the sweet shock that I, too, could write the books that brought me so much joy and excitement. Quite a seminal moment. In hindsight, though, I was already born to be a writer. Mrs. Chrytzer fueled a flame that began with the woman who brought me into this fascinating world and proceeded to tell me all about it.

Lessons in Frenglish

Let me explain my relationship with the French language. In 7th grade, I was in a class called International Foreign Language, where we were basically given a smorgasbord of different languages and cultures to learn about. French, Spanish, German. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with French. Can’t really explain it; maybe it was how it sounded, the chateaus, the croissants. By the time I reached 9th grade, where I could finally choose which language to study, there was no doubt: français all the way.

Sigh. My high school French teacher had this on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.
Sigh. My high school French teacher had a poster of this chateau on the wall. Gazed at it way more than the stuff on the board.

However. There’s a difference between hearing that lilting language and learning it. I came to despise verb conjugations and masculine vs. feminine. All I wanted was to move to Paris and communicate with the proprietors of various boulangeries. I didn’t sign up for passé composé and conditionnel. (If you speak French, congratulations for knowing what I’m referring to, and you feel my pain, don’t you? Or do you, le traitor?) But guess what? The love was too strong. I couldn’t leave. Deep down, I didn’t want to. Year and after year, I sat in the next-level French class (somehow passing, might I add), convinced that the same remedial part of my brain that couldn’t get Math was stopping me from comprehending the mechanics of this language. Yet I was still hopeful that I’d join the ranks of the kids who were now practically fluent.By the time sophomore year in college came and it was time to take a language course, the Stockholm Syndrome returned. I signed up for French like an automaton, forgetting that those conjugations and verbs weren’t going anywhere.

Enter Professor Oliver Morgan.

Prof. Morgan's twin.
Prof. Morgan’s twin.

He looked like Tim Matheson. I suppose that’s what stopped me from dropping the class. (This Square Peg freely admits moments of superficiality.) He was also charming, had a wry and cool sense of humor, and was a great teacher. I couldn’t stand him. Read on. I could see it his eyes: he was going to teach me French whether I liked it or not. He wasn’t going to throw his hands up in defeat like my French teachers in the past who couldn’t get me to speak in anything other than present tense and short phrases, which therefore allowed me to rest on my laurels and gaze at posters of chateaus. He was going to woo me with stories of his French wife and their bilingual children who spent 6 months of the year in France. He was going to call on me and force me to speak to him only in French. And because I saw that determination in his eyes, how he ignored my scowls and sarcasm, I found him highly irritating. In the end, I supposed that determination and his handsome face worked. I started paying attention in class. My comprehension improved somewhat. I passed tests with more than my ability to remember vocabulary words. Because essentially, that was it, the problem I had from the beginning: I could remember all the words. I just struggled to put them all together and in the correct tenses. Finally, in Senior Year, I took my last French class. Guess who the professor was? We had a much better time together.

Last year, I met some new French-speaking friends who, to my everlasting shock, marveled at my “perfect” French accent. I almost collapsed. I told them of my past struggles. They waved it off and continued complimenting me and said to stick with it. Whaaat? Following that, some friends and I went on a trip to Montreal, where I stunned myself by conversing with people in my usual Frenglish, but–wait for it–more French than English! Again, whaaat?

One day, my dream of living in France will come true. I, too, will walk to the local bakery and order mountains of baguettes like Professor Morgan’s children. I figure that living there and being immersed in the language and culture will cause a miraculous loosening of my brain and tongue, releasing all the French hiding in the medulla since was I was 14 years old. Until then, Frenglish it is.

Oh, other lessons I learned: 1) try, try again; 2) don’t give up; 3) eat lots of sweet bread.

 

Thursday and Friday.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I wore yesterday? And if I’m grateful for anything today? Have you? Well, since I forgot to post what I wore yesterday, let’s combine the two, shall we?

Gratitude

1. You, because you visit this blog.

2. You, because sometimes you click “like.”

3. You, because sometimes you leave a comment.

4. Anyone who supports my writing.

5. My 4th grade teacher, who inspired me to become a writer in the first place. (Have I mentioned her before? I am mentioning her again. I love you, Mrs. Chrytzer!)

6. My 11th grade English teacher, who recognized my love of writing and shaped it by saying, “I think you should major in English in college. That would be perfect for you.” (And I did, and it was.)

7. My mother, who shaped my love of writing and storytelling from the beginning by telling the most marvelous stories and introducing comic books and fairy tales into the lives of her daughters.

8. My creative writing professor in college, who taught me the value of research in fiction. It’s important!

9. My old college friend, who told me to stop using writer’s block as a crutch for not writing.

10. Music and art, for being the best friends this writer could ask for.

Ok!

Fashion

20131227-103614.jpg

20131227-103641.jpg

20131227-103654.jpg

20131227-103716.jpg

20131227-103732.jpg

It’s Casual Friday here at the farm, so the details on what I’m wearing:

Skinny jeans, gifted to me by my sister. I was late to the skinny jeans thing, so, in actuality, she forced me to wear them. They’re nice. I’d like to happily report though that they’re now a bit loose. Time for new (skinny) jeans…

Cowl neck blouse – this may have come from Mom’s cloest. Love cowl necks. You can’t really tell from the photos, though. Plus, I tend to pull up the cowl part, which hangs a bit low, to prevent the entire office from seeing the world up top, if you get mah drift…

Silver chain, Avenuethey have terrific accessories. Got this one on sale.

Cream Crystal Studded Beret, Claire’s – one of the purchases I made when I did this three weeks ago.

Standard Black Boots – the usual. I live in these things.

Bon weekend, all!