Upon reading James Fenelius article on the year 1953, my mind wandered back to that time and my early childhood. I grew up in that small Norman Rockwell town where life was simple and you knew everyone’s business. It wasn’t the hard life some experienced, although I thought we were poor until I was in my thirties. After all, that’s what my mother told us. It never occurred to me that ghetto children didn’t have piano and ballet lessons or televisions. In fact, I’m not really sure I knew what a ghetto was. In our town, we had all middle class people except two families, one rich one and one poor one. The doctor and his family were the rich ones and the woman in the duplex across the street and her dog were the poor.
Back to 1953…..That year, I was 5 years old and “Ding Dong School” was my very favorite show. Miss Francis wasn’t my first teacher, however. But, she was the kindest one and the reason I allowed them to drag me out of the house to go to school.
My first teacher was my sister who was 2 1/2 years older than I was. Of course, when we played school, she was the teacher. If I didn’t get a problem right or write in cursive correctly, she’d smack me because that was what teachers did, or so she said. The thought of school terrified me. When I finally did go, I found it pleasant, except for writing class. I had already learned cursive so it seemed useless to print, I learned that at three and it was baby stuff. I soon realized that teachers seem to feel differently about the topic. But I knew in my heart, Miss Francis would have understood.
I watched “Ding Dong School” and Miss Francis faithfully before I was old enough for school. Miss Francis would ask us all to follow her instructions at home, as she took us through the “Ding Dong” curriculum and watched us through the magic mirror. I would respond to her every question because I wanted to be her favorite and in my heart, I knew she was watching me with approving eyes. What happened next horrified me and left a mark upon my very soul. I would no longer have the chance to be the top student in Ding Dong School. My spotlight in the Ding Dong Hall of Fame would never be.
Miss Francis always ended the show by asking us to go get our parents. My mother normally complied but that fateful day; she was busy, too busy for Miss Francis. She had her hands in dishwater when I ran to the kitchen and proclaimed, “Mommy, Miss Francis wants to talk to you.”
“Not now, Honey, I’m busy”
“But she says she wants to talk to you.”
“I’m busy right now.”
Tears flowed down my face as I went back into the living room to tell Miss Francis the news. I began my sad story but Miss Francis was angry, I could tell. She wouldn’t even listen. Instead, she ignored me and talked to the other children and their parents. I sat and cried until my mother entered the room but it was too late. “Lunch Time Little Theatre” with Uncle Bucky, Uncle Ned and Aunt Doty was on. She had missed Miss Francis. No matter how much she explained about the TV, I knew my special relationship with Miss Francis would never be the same again. I would never again be her Ding Dong Darling.