Category Archives: memories
Since we have a 650 foot STEEP driveway and I’m a chicken when it comes to driving in snow and ice, winter is not my favorite season. I LOVE the inventiveness and creativity of the snow people I find online, plus the wonderful Christmas-card-perfect photos of beautiful, snow-covered homes welcoming you home with lights shining from within.
I would rather SEE and APPRECIATE from afar, though I do enjoy making a snowman if we’re lucky enough to get enough – and good packing – snow. One year I put our son on a sled and we rode down the driveway together. We didn’t stop until we were down the driveway, across the road that goes in front of our house, and into the ditch beyond. Happily, no one was killed or injured, but it too us a good half hour to trudge back up to the house. On the way down, my jeans PACKED with snow, so “I” looked like a snowman!
When we were dating, my husband decided to build a snow person in my parent’s front yard in Tulsa. Imagine their faces when they went out to get the newspaper the next morning to find an extremely FEMININE snow person greeting all comers! A couple of parts were quickly removed before they went back in. :0)
I was born in Chicago, but we moved to Brooklyn and then to Long Island soon after. When I was 5 we moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when I married, we moved to Greenwood, Arkansas, so I have rarely been in a place – when I was old enough to enjoy it – where winter was done well. We usually get sleet and ice and THEN some snow on top.
I’ll content myself, on this first day of winter, to oohing and ahhing at pretty PICTURES of homes and wonderfully creative snow people.
Each July 4th I remember one of the many reasons I decided I wanted to spend my life with my husband.
My dad’s health was failing fast. One of the things that bothered him the most was that he couldn’t see well enough to do the Cryptoquote in the daily newspaper, read, watch TV, etc. My mom would carefully print out the Cryptoquote clues on a large piece of paper in black magic marker so that he could see them. He was delighted with her for this and spent much of each day trying to solve it while my mom worked the NY Times crossword puzzle AND the cryptoquote.
My father’s favorite holiday was Independence Day. He loved getting a big, long string of ladyfinger firecrackers. They’re the little ones tied together in a long double string. You’re supposed to untie them and shoot them off one at a time. My dad would take the whole string, light it, throw it out in the yard and enjoy the seemingly endless explosions, laughing.
One of his last years he was very depressed. My then ‘boyfriend’ and I went out and bought fireworks for a back yard display. We of course got ladyfingers, TWO strings, sparklers, my favorite ‘snakes,’ and lots of inexpensive night time fireworks. My husband-to-be worked so hard that evening, setting off one firework at a time. It was so hot my poor guy was dripping. My dad’s grins split his face. He could SEE them! He thanked us over and over again, saying it was the best 4th of July he’d ever had. Our display teed off a neighbor on the next street, but we didn’t care. If I hadn’t already fallen in love with my husband, I would have that night. I will never forget his kindness to my dad.
Now my husband and I enjoy the friendly (I hope!) competition of some down-in-the-valley behind us neighbors, each trying to outdo the other in wonderful fireworks. We sit on the back deck, put our feet up on the railing, drink our cold drinks (water this year – we’re dieting) and enjoy the show. I’m not sure if our yellow lab, Amber, will be afraid of the fireworks or not. If she is, we’ll put her inside. Sweet elderly Molly is so hard of hearing now she might not even be able to hear them!
I hope you are with family and friends this celebration day.
Happy Independence Day!
In 1969 two wonderful things happened: my husband and I got married and I started teaching.
(My son provided a chat program so that we can “talk” any time we would like to, even though he’s across the world from us. This morning he had left me a question about my teaching many years ago. The chat program is having a hiccup, so I’m not able to answer him yet, but the question brought a flood of wonderful memories.)
My students were all black and I fell in love with them the first day. I taught first grade and we were in a self-contained classroom. This meant that I was responsible for trying to teach them everything. I was so excited about the opportunity it didn’t dawn on me that maybe I should be scared of all the responsibility, being a brand new teacher. We all learned a lot that first year.
I learned that our daily lives were much different from each others’, but we could sure love. I was trying to teach them phonics, and it was difficult to get or keep them excited about ‘sounds’ of letters. I made up a really silly song about the sounds, brought my guitar to school and taught my kids the song. They loved it! I would play and they would dance and we would sing, absorbing the sounds the letters made, and gradually putting them together to make words. Words became phrases and phrases became sentences and reading began. I checked out books from the school library and brought some from home to read to them so that I could share my love of reading.
I was supposed to have three reading groups, but I had six. I found that my kids learned in different ways and that, in order to make things stick and come alive, I needed to use different approaches for each group. I had the fast learners work with the kids who were having trouble, and that helped, too. I encouraged my kids to do well by giving them paper certificates on Friday afternoons for good work – one child would get one for sitting still for his reading lesson. Another got one for a good score in spelling, and son on. I gave out the certificates under the one tree on the playground, weather permitting.
My kids had trouble relating to the stories in the Weekly Reader, but we were required to go through it every week. My kids’ favorite use of it came when I rolled them up, climbed up on top of the waist-high heat register beside the windows and used it to swat a wasp that was threatening us and ruining our concentration.
I loved teaching. When the light of understanding came on – I called it the ‘light bulb moment’ – my day was made. I had made something understandable to a child. Their eyes would light up, a smile lit their face, and they could then take the ball and run with it. There is absolutely nothing more thrilling in teaching than when a child gets excited about learning.
Unfortunately, the public school system and I didn’t see eye to eye. I got into trouble – getting called to the principal’s office like an unruly child – called on the carpet for
- playing the guitar (“Ms. Lewis, this is NOT a music class!”)
- having too many reading groups
- not having all the kids on the same page at the same time
- letting kids tackling the learning in their own style
- giving out certificates under a tree on the playground
- attempting to contact parents when a child was having problems
- standing up in a PTA meeting and asking for help on getting the supplies we needed (we weren’t supposed to admit we didn’t have supplies)
- and the biggie – using the Weekly Reader to swat a wasp (the superintendent happened to walk in while I was on the register. The kids all cheered when I swatted the wasp and killed it. I put the nail in my coffin when I said, “This is the best use of the Weekly Reader I’ve seen yet.”
I had a wonderful eight years in the Tulsa Public Schools. During that time I earned a Master’s Degree as a Reading Specialist. I then started and ran my own reading clinic for another three years – my partner an intern teacher who taught with me.) We changed a lot of lives. We helped people – kindergarten through adult) fill in the gaps in their learning that had kept them from making sense of the printed page. We unlocked doors, brought smiles and confidence. The only thing we didn’t do was make enough money to continue. It was with great regret that I closed the clinic and went back to the regular world to get a job that helped pay the bills.
How lucky I was to have an opportunity I’ll never forget!