Memories are Made of This

An hour and a half ago, Bill asked me what the blog was going to be about. I told him I had no idea, but I was going to think about it while I was out getting my steps—8300 steps in 83 minutes.(Yes, I’ll never be one of those three-minute milers, but I always loved that story about the turtle and the hare. Guess who won?)

According to the weather report, it was supposed to be raining by now. It isn’t, but I went out fully prepared. I put on a jacket and a warm cap. Partway in, I shed both in favor of a hat and sunglasses. In the course of that 83 minutes, I repeated that process three separate times. I believe you could say that Seattle’s April weather is nothing if not changeable.

During one of my wardrobe changes, rather than actually donning the jacket, I simply slung it over my shoulders. In that instant I was transported to the playground at Bisbee’s Greenway School back in the fifties. During each twenty-minute recess, one of the teaches—the one who drew the short stick for the week—was handed playground duty. They generally stuck to the paved part of the playground where girls were playing dodge ball or jacks or jumping rope. The boys—the ones playing blood sports out on the dirt part of the playground—were generally left to their own devices.

But the teacher I was picturing in my mind’s eye today was Mrs. Spangler, my second grade teacher, and the one I credit with my becoming a writer. It was on the bookshelves in her classroom where I encountered the works of Frank Baum. From the moment I realized that someone was responsible for putting those words on the pages, that’s what I wanted to be and do—the person writing the words.

But the image I had of Mrs. Spangler today had nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz. I remember her standing guard on the playground one chilly but sunny spring morning with a fur jacket of some kind slung over her shoulders. From my second-grade point of view, she seemed dreadfully old at the time which I’m sure now she wasn’t. She might have been in her forties at the time. Mrs. Spangler was a dead ringer for Spring Byington, and that fur made her seem wonderfully sophisticated. If my mother, Evie, ever had a fur of any kind, I never saw her wear it.

But that playground memory got me to thinking. Do girls play with jacks any more? Do boys still play with marbles? Back in those days, the latter part of April and the first part of May was squirt-gun season at Greenway School, and we all picked up our weapons at our favorite store, Mrs. Browder’s Five and Dime at the corner of Congdon Avenue and Arizona Street, across from the drug store. I believe they sold for something like 29 cents. These days squirt guns are outlawed, and I’m pretty sure dodgeball is, too, those of us of a certain age share many of these same memories.

So today, feel free to share some of your playground experiences, because that’s why memories exist—to be shared.