74. ‘Tis the Season

Beggar’s Block

This post has nothing to do with the next block in the quilt.

I was just remembering an elementary school incident. Do you do that? Rehash old embarrassing memories? There’s probably a reason why, but I don’t want to know that reason. It probably has to do with thinking too much of oneself, which would also be embarrassing. Anyways, I was remembering how thrilling it was to order Scholastic books. The teacher would pass out the newsprint catalog at the beginning of the month. I’d pore over the titles, and make my choices. Taping the coins to the part you cut off and return, I’d get my order in before the deadline, then wait, wait, wait, for my books. Anticipation brings a thrill of its own.

The embarrassing part of this blog entry happened in sixth grade. After a lot of deliberation in my own mind, I decided to go ahead and order “The Secrets of Loveliness” along with Helen Keller’s “The Story of my Life”. “The Secrets of Loveliness” promised tips and tricks to bring out the best of my natural features, and the beauty within, tweenager-style. I was keenly interested. But I had three brothers, and the teasing potential was what I considered at length before placing my order. I was risk-adverse and usually made my choices from a self-preservation mode.

But in the end, it wasn’t my snickering brothers who caused the embarrassment, oh no. It was my teacher.

Mr. Bannon was the first male teacher I had. He had played baseball in college, and it continued to be his passion. He even managed to get a TV brought into our classroom during the World Series, which was quite novel. So we all watched the Detroit Tigers triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals, which interested me not at all.

Mr. Bannon found a useful purpose for his exceptional throwing skills. I think he had been a pitcher. I was born in the bulge year of the baby boom, so my class sizes were always large. There were 38 of us, desks lined up in tight rows, with Mr. Bannon’s desk in the rear corner. He’d give us an assignment, then sit back, feet up on his desk, with a stack of black felt erasers at the ready. If anyone whispered, or fooled around in any way, he’d pitch one and bop them hard on the back of the head with it. He never missed. The student, red-faced, was required to stand, retrieve, and return the eraser to the stack on the teacher’s desk.

So now you know what Mr. Bannon was like.

Back to the Scholastic book order. It finally arrived, and Mr. Bannon took it upon himself to list the names of all the titles ordered as he called up each student one by one to receive their books.

So in front of the entire class, boys and all, I was called up to receive my “Secrets of Loveliness” book. I remember hoping desperately that “The Story of My Life” would somehow cause a distraction from the other title. But the snickers from the boys, with Mr. Bannon adding his own, told me otherwise.

Okay, memory lane stroll session is over. My initial thought for the subject of this post was about having that “thrilling” sensation. Christmastime always brought a thrill of some sort every year: Childhood anticipation of new toys, adult thrill of creating new traditions, and anticipation of surprising our own children with their new toys.

It’s lacking at my house these days, and I’m wondering why. I just realized that today is the Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. Maybe that explains something. But we’re going to look at the Bethlehem Star tonight, first time in nearly 800 years, shouldn’t that cause a bit of frisson? Maybe not the same as the thrill of paperback book orders finally arriving, I’ll let you know.

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