Archives for July 2005

Fascinating Facts

Last week time came up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me.

My two oldest grandchildren graduated from sixth grade.

I think it was maybe about five years ago that I was in sixth grade. I remember it well. Mr. O’Barr had borrowed my huge and beloved “Fascinating Facts” book—the one that told me that Chinese people eat eggs that are very old and that a murderer had been caught because his image remained in the eyes of the victim. I could hardly wait to get it back as I read it every night. Each day in school, we would practice for graduation. We learned a large number of songs that we were going to sing in two part harmony. I didn’t mind the singing, but standing on the bleachers for hour after hour was less than comfortable.

Meanwhile, at home, my parents were getting ready for a vacation to Florida. My graduation, you see, was in January, at the end of the first semester of school because at that time, two classes a year entered school, one in September and one in February. We were going to move on to seventh grade and junior high school within a week of our graduation. My parents’ vacation lasted for two weeks and they came back about a week before the graduation.

My mother had bought me a large wardrobe of new dresses because graduation meant at least 4 parties and 2 dances and I couldn’t wear something that was old. Even though this was only the mid 1950s, there was already social pressure. My first “grown-up” party was when I was in fifth grade. I remember my mother coming home from the store with a bag for me. It contained stockings and a garter belt! It was, after all, in the era before pantyhose were invented.

When my parents returned from Florida, they brought me an additional dress. It was navy linen and had a navy linen short “bolero” jacket with red piping and a red cloth flower on it. I couldn’t wait for the celebrating to begin.

The Saturday night before graduation there was a dance at our school. My father drove me and a friend to the dance. While we were there, Larry Silverman, a tall, lean, blond boy asked me to dance. At the end of the evening, he asked me if I would go out with him for ice cream. I went to the pay phone and called my mother. She told me that it would not be polite to my friend to leave without her and that I should return home with her and then my father would drive me back to the dance and we would pick up Larry and my father would drive us to the ice cream parlor. So, on my very first almost-date, my father sat outside in the cold in his car waiting for Larry and me to finish our ice cream, and then he drove us home.

Monday morning when I got up, my mother looked at me and said, “What happened to you!” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She said that I had a rash on my face. I looked into the mirror, and she was right. She looked at my neck and then my arms and legs. The rash was there too. In fact, the rash was all over my body. My mother was not pleased. I didn’t understand yet what was bothering her. She said to me, “Did you kiss Larry Silverman?” The question was completely shocking. The thought had never entered my mind. I am certain it hadn’t entered Larry’s either. The implication, of course, was that kissing causes rashes. Alas, it was not the imagined kiss, it was measles.

So while everyone was graduating and partying, I sat on my bed and my beautiful new dresses hung in the closet.

Mr. O’Barr never returned my “Fascinating Facts.”