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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Second Grade in New Jersey

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 3/21/2023
Occurred: 1/2/1959
Page Views: 6689
Topics: #Autobiography #Education
Picking up where I left off.
School:Fairview Elementary
Fairview Elementary School, Bloomfield, NJ

After the death of my father, my mom decided we should stay with her parents in New Jersey, at least until the harsh Vermont winter had given way to spring. And, obviously, we kids couldn't be kept out of school that long (although we argued, unsuccessfully, that we could); so we wound up getting enrolled in Bloomfield's Fairview Elementary School.

I don't remember the name of my teacher; too much had gone on that year. But I do remember details, like crippled Brian, and my first bank account, and the time I met my future husband in a UFO. Oh, and when my sister, Mary Joan, almost got run over by a train.

As had been in the case in Garfield when I was in kindergarter and first grade, a bunch of us kids who lived at my grandparents' apartments walked together to school. That walk, which I doubt had ever been vetted by an adult, included a section along a working railroad trestle. We waited for the morning train to come by, then followed on foot.

But, one day, for some reason (I think we were really late though I don't remember why), Mary Joan and I found ourselves making this pedestrian journey by ourselves. I was a little nervous because we hadn't made the trip that many times with others and I wasn't certain I knew the way.

But we made it to the trestle. And it was there that Mary Joan's shoelace somehow became caught in the tracks.

And, of course, a train was coming. (She remembers that part more clearly than I do.) But we managed to get her out of her shoe and safe off the trestle, and then I retrieved her shoe.

I had less good luck with my bank account.

As part of our artithmetic class, everyone in the class was required to open up a bank account and desposit a small amount (like a quarter) each week. Our teacher was in charge of the accounts; each Tuesday we had to bring the account book and our deposit to give her. She would bring them to the bank and return them to us the next day.

In those days, bank accounts were all on paper, of course; each account had a booklet with each transaction stamped onto it, and the resulting balance. So when she brought back the booklet, we could see how our savings were building up.

Except that, in the confusion over trying to get Mary Joan and her shoe safely to school, I somehow managed to misplace my account book.

I got yelled at by the teacher, and then my mom when I got home. Everyone seemed to act like I had thrown money away. But it turned out the bank kept its own copy of my account transactions, and re-creating my account book was a matter of no consequence.

So, once again, I learned that adults tended to make a lot of fuss over nothing…and seldom apologized for it later.

For recess, we played some kind of ball game called kickball, with rules similar to baseball, but kicking a basketball instead. There was a boy in the class Brian, who was crippled. Looking back I imagine he was a victim of polio, which many kids got in those days. His legs were withered and he had to use crutches to get around. Obviously a game of kickball, which including running the bases, was not designed for him. So, whenever he successfully kicked the ball, I, who came just after him alphabetically, got the job of running the bases for him. That's pretty much the pinnacle of my sports career, right there.

I do have an odd memory from this period that I can't pin to a specific date or event. I remember being in what I thought was a storage room at my school, a room with metal walls and many stacked TV screens. There was another boy in the room, a dark-haired kid whose nose was bleeding. My own had been bleeding as well, but had stopped. The boy was crying, so I did my best to comfort him. The memory ends there.

Decades later, when I was telling my life story to Michael, who I subsequently married, I started sharing this incident when he interrupted me. He had the same memory—from the point of view of the boy with the bloody nose!