Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Funny Thing About Memory

I can't recall much of what happened that day two months ago. I have some of it on video,  which I watched. I can remember the video,  but in the same way that I remember a television show that I watched. It isn't the same as remembering it first hand.

For example,  I remember my third grade English teacher, Mrs. Diable. I remember her tight, brown, beehive hairdo. It was a good eight inches high. I remember her beady brown eyes,  and the way they sometimes looked like they were flaring red, and how that scared most of us. She was a conservative dresser at least a decade out of fashion. Nearly always in a long, straight skirt - not tight enough to be flattering,  but not loose enough to twirl when she spun around,  either. Her tops were always long sleeve with high collars.  Very high.  She wore those huge poofy scarf bows like a bow tie. It looked terrible because the bows were frequently larger than her whole head,  minus the hairdo, of course.

She was one of the few teachers who openly disliked me. It was because of the lesson on writing our address. I knew where I lived. I wrote my street down as Park. Her paper,  for whatever reason,  said I lived on Pike. I explained politely that Pike was the next street over. She went completely ballistic, hooting and hollering as if I just murdered cats and babies right in front of her. She demanded that I apologize and write my correct street name.

I couldn't do it.

I'm not sure I can fully explain the war inside me at that moment. I was to apologize for being correct and then knowingly write down information that was false, and pretend not to know better. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even fathom how to do it. I stared at the pencil. I couldn't play dumb. I'd never been asked to be wrong before.

Though it did no good,  I asked her what Jennifer wrote on her paper. Through gritted teeth, Mrs. Diable asked why it mattered. I said that Jennifer lived two houses down from me. We were on the same street. I asked if Jennifer lived on Pike. I might have asked too loud.

Jennifer looked up. "Our address is Park. P-A-R-K." Jennifer sounded annoyed. Not with the teacher,  but with me. I was supposed to be the smart one. How did I suddenly not know my own address?

Mrs. Diable showed me her sheet. There was my name,  along with the wrong address.  There was Jennifer's listing,  with the correct one. And Joey, my neighbor on the other side,  with the correct one. I pointed this out. I asked how Mrs. Diable thought it was possible that I lived between these two people,  but had a different street name. She said it didn't matter. What the sheet said is what was right. I clearly didn't know my own address.

I was sent to sit with the teacher's aide. I was to write this Pike address 50 times. The teacher's aide begged me not to,  but I wrote it as Park.

My grandmother always picked me up from school. She was one of the helpers that made sure children had coats on properly and such. My grandmother was told to fetch me directly from Mrs. Diable's room. The teacher needed to speak with her about my behavior.

That had never happened before.

My grandmother came in.  Mrs. Diable said that I didn't know my address,  and that I refused to learn it. Confused,  my grandmother looked to me.

"You've known your address for two years."

I shrugged. "You taught me that I live on Park, the same as Joey and Jennifer."

"You do." My grandmother looked at Mrs. Diable and the teacher's aide. "What's the problem."

"Your granddaughter lives on Pike. The paper says so!"

"Do I need to drive you to her house or call AAA for a map? She lives on Park. The paper is wrong. Pike is the next street over."

Mrs. Diable called the principal. Records were checked at the school office. I lived on Park. Mrs. Diable apologized to my grandmother.

"See? I told you I live on Park."

My teacher told me not to get smart.

I wondered why a teacher would want me to be anything but smart. Wasn't that the point of school? We disliked each other from that day on.

This I can remember clear as a bell. But that day two months ago? Fuzzy at best.