The past makes some people shudder, evoking feelings of unease. School reunions brings this out even more. But I do not have any foreboding for my future get together, in fact I am looking forward to it. After all, I will be escorted by the most beautiful wife in the world.
Next month, on Saturday, October 15, 2011, Wellesworth Junior School in Etobicoke will be hosting its 50th Anniversary Reunion. And I found out my grade three teacher is still alive and will hopefully be present. It would be wonderful to see her again.
My kindergarten to grade two years were at a different school that I do not have many memories of. Switching to Wellesworth for grade three landed me in Mrs. Eleanor Thomson’s class. And an adventure of good and bad continued, nay, became very formative of my life.
Entering her class, I was already a troubled student. From math to social skills to what they call “fine and gross motor co-ordination”, I was a fine mess. Fine co-ordination means I had problems doing things with my hands, like catching, well, anything. Gross co-ordination means I didn’t know how to ride a bike and skip rope. Catching I conquered (sometimes) and bike riding in grade four. Stopping and turning the bike in grade five. The only academic area I seemed to do well in was reading. Which I did a lot of.
Mrs. Thomson was a wonderfully nice teacher is so many many ways, but unfortunately she also added another batch of problems to the mix. Context is needed here. I first entered her classroom in 1979 and she was already old at that time. Stories of her World War II years as a nurse were famous. She always seemed ancient and powerful. Yoda without the verbal flip flops. But the eternal baggage she carried infiltrated her ways.
She thought lefties were abnormal, evil, profane, mutants, freaks, er, you get the idea.
This issue had to be resolved. So she forcibly converted me to a righty. Much to my mothers objection. My normally barely legible printing became almost totally incomprehensible. Also, my hand began lurching at a weird angle, smushing my pencil marks on the page into a blackened mess. Many years later, my handwriting finally rebounded.
Switching hands also mucked up my brain chemistry somewhat (at least, that’s the current theory). Stuttering was another difficulty I had to contend with when entering Wellesworth, but this change of writing hands upped the ante considerably. Talking even a bit would set off my stammer almost consistently. By the end of grade eight it had finally subsided, only to reoccur briefly at the start of college.
The oh so fun combination of stuttering and physical clumsiness resulted in multiple school yard taunts and fights. Trips to the Principal’s office were almost a weekly occurrence. It one time it was twice in one day. Over the years I found out that the majority of these bullies went nowhere fast in life, becoming jokes in their futures.
Despite these issues, I do not blame Mrs. Thomson for any of this. She, quite simply, did not know she was contributing to my distress. She worked hard to help me overcome so many other problems, and for that I am eternally grateful. And something else she did, she was the first total maverick of a teacher I had ever met.
We never sat in same place in class. A fascinating wheel on a display told us our designated place, a device that plunked us students into a different seat everyday. Some days it was good, others not so much, but still different. A school board trip became a weekly adventure. Mrs. Thomson wanted to demystify what the school board was to us, so three students a week were given a tour of the board offices and lunch in the cafeteria. Everyone knew us on these tours as her students, which pleased us to no end. And the board caf had great jello.
When I inevitably had to repeat grade three, it was comforting to know I was in her class again. I thrived more the second time around under her guidance. Confidence, from her hugs when needed, her strictness when required, helped me along. My time part of the week at a special school also worked wonders.
Grade four had me encounter an awful teacher, best forgotten, but grade five led me to Mrs. Ivens. Her gentle, caring, motherly spirit was a blessing for me. We also thought it was so cool that Mrs. Ivens was expecting her first child that year. It was a girl and she was beautiful.
Some people have asked me why, with all the pain and hardship I suffered as a child, am I so excited for this gathering? Well, because, I survived. I can ride a bike. I can write normally. I don’t stutter anymore. I have read a million books. And I have friends (some going back to Wellesworth). As the current anti-bullying campaign says, It Gets Better. Not all of my memories are bad. I look forward to seeing who shows up and rekindling old friendships. Seeing Mrs. Thomson and Mrs. Ivens again would make my day. Seeing her now grown daughter again would be fun (I saw her years ago someplace and she was almost my height!).
Flashing back this far has been memorable for me. Seeing my existence then and now, I am proud of myself today. Fours years of my life were spent wandering the halls (and library!) of Wellesworth Junior School, years I am very happy about.
And I can’t wait to share the happiness with my former classmates and teachers. The joy shall be contagious!
P.S. Wellesworth Junior School is holding its 50th Anniversary Reunion on Saturday October 15, 2011. It will be open from 1 to 4 pm with a special presentation at 2pm. The reunion is informal and the school requests any pictures or memorabilia for display be sent to the following:
Wellesworth Junior School, 225 Wellesworth Drive, Etobicoke, Ontario, M9C 4S5