Anne Smith :: Blog for May 2011
I’m sitting in Zuckers Café on Chambers Street, which I’ve passed by so many times on my way to teach a private lesson. There is something about a neighborhood café that’s so poetic- and conducive to writing. Good coffee here-and I’m having some peanut butter cookies from The Protein Bakery, which are awesome…and purportedly very good for me, according to the package.
Ahh, Happy Summer. Happy June. June 14th. Flag Day. I’m having flashbacks to my days as an elementary school Music Teacher, having to prepare hundreds of children for Flag Day Ceremonies over the years. Flag Day presentations were usually held outdoors for a number of reasons, mainly being that by this time of year, it’s too stifling to cram 89 youngsters, their parents, teachers, administrators, the mayor, and the local Veteran’s Association into an “auditorium”- (snicker, read: “sticky cafeteria that smelled perennially of sour milk and fish sticks”).
Close your eyes. Let me put you in the moment. It’s Flag Day morning, 1987 at The Veteran’s Memorial School in Saugus Massachusetts at 9:30am. The sunrise that morning was a red ball of fire burning through the haze and already the birds in the trees are sweating. They’re too hot to tweet, and have damp patches under their wings. The only sound that cuts through the oppressive stillness is the cursing of the school custodian, as he flings chairs into rows in the parking lot, where the Flag Day Ceremony will shortly take place. A few veterans, perhaps grandpas or great uncles of some of the students, are gathered to the side of the setup in a huddle with the mayor. They are in high spirits, Bryl-creemed and clutching Styrofoam coffee cups, telling the same jokes and stories they tell over and over again each year, when they meet in this parking lot. That’s okay, they earned it.
A teacher’s sharp voice drones out from an open window as students are lined up in each class in the order that they will stand for the FDC. Understandably, they are a little antsy, due to being dressed up in their starched finery in such hot weather, and having to stand for so long in their classrooms, waiting to go out to perform. They can’t sit, because all the available chairs in the school are being set up in the parking lot. You can only imagine the Tom-Foolery that transpires during this torturous waiting period. Once in awhile, a hornet or honey-bee from the azalea bush in front of the school finds its way into a classroom. Flag Day is no exception and there are several screams and sounds of thudding that accompany the general commotion of that morning.
Parents are gathering, plunking their butts into chairs almost as soon as the custodian can put them down, and fanning themselves, delving into purses and bags, to get cameras ready. The air is shimmering with heat. The veterans take their seats in a row near the podium, where the AV Specialist (snicker, read: School Librarian who always gets stuck hooking up the equipment, but doesn’t really mind, because the alternative is to help out the teachers inside the school) is still fiddling with the PA system. The Music Teacher (did you wonder what I had been doing all this time? Has just arrived with her portable keyboard and iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. ) She has rehearsed this program 3 times since last week, and feels confident that her students will rock. Almost ready, now. Places!
Having been glared at and threatened with all kinds of consequences, time-outs, blah, blah, blah, here come the students, cute as hell, all bashful and dressed up in their red white and blue. They file across the parking lot with their teachers, to the accompaniment of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”. Is that a mirage, or do we see Norman Rockwell in the crowd, discreetly painting another of his beloved vignettes? The principal, perspiring like mad in a suit, steps up to the mic, taps it nervously, noting that it’s not working. The librarian overcompensates by cranking the volume and the resulting feedback is earsplitting. Suddenly, a hornet dive-bombs the first row of children. The parents respond with a 21-epipen salute. Order is restored when one of the veterans swats the hornet to the ground and squashes it. Some of the children cheer and are shushed. The FDC resumes without further incident….until….(yes, this did actually happen one year)….a notorious second grade boy (who may or may not be presently running for public office), wandered over to the azalea bush while his peers were singing “God Bless America”, and whipped out his…flagpole, much to the humiliation of his classroom teacher. He was whisked into the school and subsequently sent home in a cab that morning. I don’t think that image made it into the Rockwell portfolio. But, anyway, it’s safe to open your eyes now, and go about your day! Enjoy and cherish your memories…laugh when you can, cry if you have to.
Until Next Time….xoxoAnnie