Thursday, August 3, 2017


Chrysanthemums always remind me of my grammar school, for two reasons.

The first reason is for a spelling bee.  I remember the bee, but I don't remember if (a) I had to spell chrysanthemum and couldn't do it, or (b) someone else had to spell it and couldn't, or (c) someone did spell it correctly and won the contest because of it.
In any event, I came home determined to learn how to spell chrysanthemum in case I was ever put on the spot.  I did and to this day, I think of that spelling bee whenever I think of that flower.  (I have also never, to my knowledge, been asked to spell chrysanthemum)

There were lots of strange things that I remember about in grammar school.  I remember one nun had a contest to see who could demonstrate the proper way to eat a piece of bread.  Several of us tried it, but nobody had the right answer (break the bread in half, then in quarters, and then butter one quarter and eat that before buttering the next).  To this day, I don't think I have ever seen a single person eat a piece of bread that way.

I remember one nun who always had health class right before lunch.  "Health" consisted of telling us some horror story about something stupid some kid had done that did terrible things to him.  I can only remember two, but one was two girls who decided they wanted to lose weight and so they sent away for some pills they saw advertised (given that we were probably not much older than Brianna is now, I wonder how she came up with THAT story).

Anyway, the pills arrived and one girl took hers right away while the other one put hers on top of her dresser, deciding to take it in the morning.  In the morning when she woke up her pill had turned into a tapeworm.  Obviously that made an impression on me and I have never ordered pills through the mail from some advertisement I saw in a magazine!

The other story was about some kids who were playing under a palm tree that had drooping palm fronds and one boy kept jumping up at the tree until one of the fronds hit him on top of the head and buried itself in his skull and they could not pull it out.  (I wonder if Sister then went on to write for Rod Serling when his Twilight Zone series started!)

There was a nun who decided to teach us to dance.  I think we mostly learned how to square dance.  My best friend Judy L. was the tallest child in the class and Jerry P. was the smallest child in the class.  Sister always made them partners.  I don't know what sort of sadistic pleasure that gave her, but I have recently reconnected with Judy in the last few years and she still feels mortified remembering having to dance with Jerry 60 years ago.

We also learned a bit of Irish dancing (the order was from Ireland, though I don't remember any of our nuns speaking with an accent).  To this day I don't have a clue what the steps were, but I can hear the tune and can count...

...and a 1, 2, 3, 4 ,5 ,6, 7 .... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7  ... and a 1, 2, 3 ... 1, 2, 3

Isn't it weird the things that we remember?

But I digress.  Chrysanthemums.

Our grammar school was connected to the church, separated by a parking lot/playground (concrete area with nothing to play on).  I don't know how often the church had events that required children to participate by marching in procession, but I'm sure a lot fewer than I remember.

We would all dress in our Sunday finery (I think the girls had to wear white dresses) and meet downstairs in the church basement.  I don't know what kind of head covering we had,  but since girls always had to wear something on our heads in church in those days, I know we had something.  But we always had to carry those damn chrysanthemum bouquets.  They must have gotten a deal on them.
We would enter at the back of the church and file down both side aisles and stand in the aisles while prayers were being said.

As you can see it was not a particularly small church.
I don't really remember a lot about the services, but I remember the chrysanthemums.  They don't have a strong smell and it's not unpleasant, but it's not pleasant either.  It's just a chrysanthemum smell.  I can almost, but not quite, recreate it in my head.

But one thing I was a lot more pleasant to spell chrysanthemum than it was to carry the damn things.

No comments: