In my kindergarten class at Greenway School in Bisbee, Arizona, I got in hot water the day we were making Japanese lanterns out of pieces of green construction paper. I somehow misunderstood the directions and ended up with a piece of green construction paper fringe. Knowing what I know now and about my struggles to see the black board in first grade, there was probably a good reason I misunderstood, but the teacher was having none of it. I was told to take my blanket and was exiled to the floor of the teacher’s closet for the remainder of the day. It was like being shipped into exile.??My first grade teacher,
Mrs. Kelly, gave me a seat in the front row so I could see the blackboard. One day, on the way to school, I was attacked by a crow who was trying to pull the gold barrettes out of my hair.
Mr. Treceise came running out into the street with his rake and chased the crow away. He then walked me to school. I was late, of course, and when I told Mrs. Kelly why I was late, I don’t think she believed a word of it, but at least she didn’t make me spend the day in her closet.??
Mrs. Spangler in second grade set me on course for becoming a writer by having a huge collection of books in her classroom, and it was while reading her copies of Frank Baum’s Oz books when I decided then and there that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.??
Mrs. Gilbert in third grade gave me a C in penmanship because she said I slanted my letters in the wrong direction. I still do, and there are literally thousands of samples of my mis-slanted signature out in the world in autographed copies of my books.??
Mrs. Dye was my fourth grade teacher. I didn’t know her well because we had substitutes for most of that year. I had no idea she was seriously ill and would die during the summer of that very year.??
Miss Stammer, my fifth grade teacher, was straight out of Chicago and drove a yellow Studebaker. She was tough. When Floyd Lucero, one of the kids in the class, lipped off at her, she picked him up by his shirt collar and carried him one handed to the principal’s office in another building.??
Mrs. Watkins, my sixth grade teacher, loved outlining, but she certainly didn’t pass her affinity for that on to me. I hated outlining then and nothing that has happened to me in the intervening decades has changed my mind about that.??
For 7th and 8th grade we moved from class to class with four different teachers—Mr. Norton, Mr. Goodson, Mrs. Upton, and, Mrs. Hennessey. ??
But who’s the one Greenway teacher whose name I don’t remember? The one from Kindergarten. ??
I remember all my teachers from Bisbee High School. I had an excellent crop of teachers there, and I’ve recounted happy memories from many of them here in my blog. I know remembrances of Richard Guerra, Rachel Riggins, and Eva Medigovich have all appeared here, but there were others who were equally outstanding. Last night, lying in bed, I counted them off in my head, and was able to recount the name of every single of one of my high school teachers with no exceptions.??
Ditto for my college instructors and professors–Sidney Shiffer, Byrd Granger, Evelyn Kirmse, Paul Rosenblatt, Jack Huggins, Eleanor Saltus, and many others. Those were the folks who took a small town Arizona girl and educated her to live in the real world. For years, I was unable to recall the name of the Creative Writing professor who refused me admission to his class in 1964. A few weeks ago someone wrote to me and mentioned his name. I recognized it as soon as I saw it, but even though I know it now, I’m not going to mention it here. I don’t want to, and there’s no need. Then there was the Western Civ professor who announced to an auditorium of 300 students that “the only thing more contemptible than undergraduate males were undergraduate females.” I don’t remember his name, either.??
And I think that’s the whole point. Although I have a wonderful ability to remember people and things, I’ve been given the gift of being able to forget the names of the people who ‘done me wrong,’ as it were. I may remember their actions, but I don’t have to remember the names of the doers of those deed. By allowing their identities to slip from my mind, I’ve removed the power they held over me and my life. I’m no longer that shamed little girl lying on her blanket in the teacher’s closet. I’m someone else now, and she no longer exists.??
That’s exactly what the gift of forgetting is all about.