Monday, February 21, 2011

What was my mother thinking? (Stylish Blogger Award, Part 1)

What was my mother thinking when she brushed my hair back off my high forehead, fastened it with a barrette and sent me off to school to have my class picture taken? What a terrible hairstyle that was!

Of course my mother had her work cut out for her, when it came to arranging my hair. Her own hair had big round curls, but my mother passed none of those curls to me. There was not so much of a wave in my fine, brown hair, let alone a curl!

Left to its own devises my hair sits limp and flat to my head like a helmet. Not only does it have no curls, it holds no curls, always preferring to answer the pull of gravity and return to its natural resting position next to my skull. While my hair doesn't hold a curl it does, oddly enough, demonstrate an amazing ability, each morning after a night of tossing back and forth on my pillow, to stand completely on end rather like a crown of sharp spikes. It is astonishing, that when faced with the daily prospect of confronting my early morning hairdo, my husband didn't divorce me years ago.

This is the first thing that you should know about me. My hair and I have always been the most bitter of enemies.

Now, I am sure that you are wondering just why I am showing you this particular portrait of myself. Well, if you look closely, I think that the picture tells the tale. Just look at those clasped hands and that resolute stance. I am willful and stubborn as an mule, which is, by the way, the second thing that you must know about me.

This is me in grade 2. (Love the startled, deer-in-the headlights expression on my face!) Grade 2 was an important year for me, in which I discovered much about myself. For instance, I learned that I can't sing to save my life.

I so very much wanted to be member of the school's "Rhythm Band", a group of singers, who got to play percussion instruments, like tambourines and triangles, at the yearly spring concert. I dreamed about being a member of the band, not because I had early ambitions to be a musician. No, no! It was because I wanted to have a chance to wear one of the really awesome, blue satin capes, that each band members wore during school's spring concert.

But when I was called to the piano for my audition and croaked out the few stanzas of a common children's song, it was determined that I was only a "red bird". You had to be at least a "yellow bird" or preferably a "blue bird" to be a member of the Rythum Band. (This bird designation was a special code developed by our music teacher to describe each students ability to sing, without hurting anyone's feelings. It was a bit silly really. We all knew what the secret code meant. If you were a "blue bird", it meant that you could carry a tune well on your own, if you were a "yellow bird" you could carry a tune with the aid of the piano, and if you were a red bird, like me, well, you couldn't carry a tune whatsoever. As a red bird, there was no hope of me ever wearing that dashing blue satin cape!)

I can also tell you, that was also a terrible daydreamer, as a child. I remember being called upon to read aloud by our teacher, the very stylish Miss Brumwell, whom I worshiped and adored. Unfortunately for me, I had been daydreaming instead of paying attention and had lost my place in the grade school reader. Miss B. reprimanded me, and told me to find my place, before I was called upon next. But even after being given a third opportunity to find my place in the book, I failed to do so.

Frustrated and angry, Miss Brumwell led me to the coatroom, were she spanked me and told me to stand quietly in the company of our outdoor hats and coats, while I contemplated the error of my ways. Big, hot tears of shame, rolled down my freckled cheeks. Seeing my tears, I think Miss B. felt sorry for loosing her temper, because she hugged me, and told me not to cry, just to pay better attention in the future.

It was in grade 2, that I fell in love for the first time. His name was Martin Jones. I remember very little about Martin, other than the fact that he had such blonde hair, that it was almost white in color. Figuring principally in the determination that Martin was as the object of my girlish affections, was the fact that he was my dance partner in our class performance of the English folk tune "Greensleeves". It seems that proximity in matters of the heart, was key for me in grade 2. My mother, who sewed all our clothing growing up, made me a special red dress for the dance performance. It had a full skirt, that ripped beautifully, whenever I twirled around. I think I loved that red dress, almost as much as I loved Martin.

My fourth grade teacher was the tall and slender Miss Conrad. Miss Conrad also did double duty as the schools principal and as the authority figure that administered the dreaded strap, she warranted an extra measure of respect. The strap, a narrow strip of thick leather that cracked down hard on the hands of the badly behaved, struck its mark with a such a loud thwack, that it echoed through the school's hallways. Even we innocents, left waiting meekly at our desks in the classroom, trembling with fear at the sound of it.

Though strict, Miss Conrad was also kind. Every Friday afternoon, she would read aloud to us from a chapter book. How I loved resting my head sleepily on my arms, while a listened to the soft cadence of her voice and the sing-song rhythm of the story's words. For my love books and stories, I credit Miss Conrad.

Sadly, Miss Conrad was also the first dead body I ever saw. She passed away, not two years into her retirement from teaching. I was one of the two representatives of my grade 6 class, elected to pay final respects to our teacher, on behalf of the whole class. My unease was extreme, as I gazed down at her pale, sunken face, as it lay resting on a satin pillow in the open coffin. Poor, dear Miss Conrad! I am sure she would have been touched, to know how well she was remembered by her students.

Last week I was honoured with not 1, but 3 Stylish Blogger awards. As the recipient of a Stylish Blogger Award, you are required to reveal 7 random facts about yourself. With three such honors, I initially wondered, with some trepidation I might add, if this award received thrice over meant I actually had to divulge 7 x 3 for a total of 21 random facts about myself. How could I possibly be that interesting?

My next thought was, that it might be fun to do three posts, each inspired by the blogger who had given me the Stylish Blogger Award.

And so, that is just what I am going to do.

If that breaks any Stylish Blogger Award rules, so be it. Rack up one more factoid! I am not good at following rules.

Today's post is in honour of a school teacher who lives in Washington, D.C. She is the author of the Casa Mariposa blog and I both admire and envy her beautiful writing style. Her post on the subject of a class science experiment is among my most favorite pieces of her writing. Her role as a teacher and mentor to her students has inspired today's school days theme.

Up next, is a Stylish Blogger Award post inspired by the blog All is Amazing and on Friday, a final post to cover off my award from a gardener in the Netherlands, the author of the blog Elly's Tuin.


  1. Oh, how cute Jen. I look back at my old school pictures and cringe.LOL! What is up with the pulling the hair back thing with mothers and grandmothers? I remember my grandma always pulling mine in behind my ears before walking to church on Sunday mornings. As soon as I was out of sight I always pulled it back over my ears. LOL! They all make for fun memories now though.

  2. Oh my, I remember photo day at school well. I would have loved to have had your straight hair problem as I had unruly curl hair as a child. It still acts up!

  3. I didn't have hair that could be pulled back. It was red and curly like orphan Annie and I hated it. I wanted long black straight hair like my friend Phyllis!


  4. I am sure every person that read your post was immediately thrown back into their elementary school days by your evocative writing. Your music teacher's code reminded me of my 1st through 3rd grade years where the school I attended gave out color coded report cards at a public assembly every quarter. I always wanted a white one (A)---I never got it. It's amazing all of us aren't in lifelong therapy or are we?

  5. I enjoyed this so very much...surely that's me in the photo with the plaid skirt and shoulder straps holding it up)))). We must be the same "vintage". hahaha Mom and dad saved every school photo and gave them all to me a few years back.

    What a chuckle I had reading Carolyn's comment...I never got a white one either Carolyn. Therapy has helped though...Just kidding!!

  6. Actually, make it 4 Stylish Blogger awards! I awarded you on on Saturday but just realized today that I posted to my blog but forgot to send out the emails! I'm really enjoyed reading your blog, especially your Color Essay photo posts.

  7. What an interesting way to tell us about yourself and honor the teacher who nominated you. Great idea and a fun post to read!

  8. Some times I wanted to laugh, and sometimes I wanted to cry! Very interesting!!! I love all these school photos, and the first one is my favorite! You look wonderful in it!
    ..I am also a red bird!

  9. Sorry, I forgot to say
    'Congratulations on the award' four times!!!!

  10. You look really cute especially in the first photo.

  11. Thank you for a fourth Stylish Blogger Award, Kelly. I am sure I can dig deep and come up with a fourth post.

  12. Go girl, break those rule. This was so delightful and when you were describing you hair and your mom's hair, that was me too. My hair is fine and straight, My mom had luxurious gentle curls a would always bring it to my attention, like it was my fault having long straight hair. But unlike your mom, my mom MADE my hair curly. Talk about frightful photos. Those photos have been burned to a crisp.

  13. Hi Jennifer ~ Love all your old school photos! My Mom always kept my hair very short. I was a figure skater so the style mimicked Dorothy Hamill's Wedge haircut! I was mistaken for a boy until I was 13 so I think your Mom did alright with your hair 'cause at least you looked female!

  14. Congratulations on the award, and what a fun post! Those school photos brought my own childhood memories back....

  15. Jennifer, what an utterly fantastic post. I love your idea to honor each blogger who nominated you and it was great fun to hear about your school years. Looking forward to the next one.


    Isn't it amazing how we all dislike our school photos, even those from our earliest years? No one else would have thought, "My what a large forehead you had!" My first thought was, "What a sweet little girl!"

    My daughter is also gifted with a beautiful sweep of forehead and also felt very self-conscious about it while growing up. I always told her it was a sign of all the brains in her head, and she certainly has plenty of those!

    Such an enjoyable post, and super to have insight into your growing years :)

  17. My hair and I are bitter enemies too!

  18. I have been so bogged down with work (Science Fair!) I missed this post until today!! I am so touched and am sorry I am so late. I had no idea anyone would ever read my blog beside my husband and didn't dare dream that my love of writing would ever touch another person. Thank you a million times over for thinking of me! I, too, am rotten at following rules, can't sing to save my life, and am still a stubborn daydreamer. I'm beyond touched. I'm blown away!!


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