View Sidebar

A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

5th Grade

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Occurred: 9/5/1961
Page Views: 534
Topics: #Autobiography #Education
My last month in a Vermont school.
School:East Concord Elementary
Teacher:Mrs. Gwen Howe

In the summer after I was promoted to fifth grade, we made a cross-country trip from Vermont to Arizona and back again. The purpose of the trip had been to see if we (and by "we" I mean Mom) wanted to move there. Mom had never previously experienced Vermont winters; when she was a kid, they spent summers only in Pawlett. But we made the Arizona trip during the very hottest part of the year; and that was too hot. So that left Florida.

Again, as a kid, Mom had spent several summers in Florida; and her favorite place in Florida was the little town of St. Augustine. What's more, she decided to not just check it out, but to go ahead and move there. But, obviously, packing would take some time. So the plan was for us kids to go ahead and attend school where we'd been going, East Concord Elementary…for about a month.

I don't remember telling anyone about it, at least, until very shortly before we actually left. So class went on pretty much as it had the previous two years. It was the same physical classroom, and the same teacher. The previous year's fifth graders were now upstairs in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade classroom and a new crop of 3rd graders had joined us; but otherwise it was completely familiar.

Even the lessons were much the same, as I had always found the stuff the 5th graders were learning to be much more interesting than whatever the 3rd or 4th graders had on their curriculum. I was excited, for example, to finally be able to actually perform the experiements the fifth graders did in science class; for example, testing whether air has weight.

I also learned things on the playground. For example, I found I preferred hanging around the teachers than playing with the other kids. Once when I was doing this, Mrs. Howe happened to be holding a soda and I noticed a bee had settled on the lip of the bottle (this was long before canned sodas) and pointed it out to her. But she shrugged and continued her conversation with the lower grade teacher, Mrs. Casey.

I was horrified. If there was a bee in the car, my mom would jam on the brakes and we'd all get out until the bee decided, on its own, to leave. Obviously Mom and Mrs. Howe dealt with bees very differently.

Eventually, Mrs. Howe noticed my distress and laughed. "It's not going to drink much!" she assured me.

"But it might bite you!" I warned.

"Not if I don't upset it by swatting and panicking!"

I must admit, it took me years before her advice sunk in. But it has turned out to be a sound method of sharing the planet with arguably its most irreplaceable species.

Well, anyway, September came to an end and so did my sojourn in Vermont. We went to school on the bus as usual; but before the end of the day, Mom showed up to pick us up and head out on our way south.

To my astonishment and maybe a little embarassment, one of the girls in my class burst into tears at my leaving. Her name was Joyce Lund, and she was absolutely the prettiest girl in the class, with jet black hair and sparkling eyes. I'd had no idea she even knew I existed. We could have been friends. But now it was too late.

I did have one guy friend, Danny Hartshorn; we exchanged addresses and actually kept in touch, until he went to Vietnam in the Army and never returned.

But, in any case, we were now in the car, not heading home from school, but heading out on another travel adventure.