The Felon Across the Street

Why is it that some grown-ups believe that hitting, spanking, beating children or animals teaches them anything at all?  Children and animals learn two things from that experience.  Not to trust you and to get as far away from you as possible when ever possible.

Hazel Davis must be dead for sure, unless she’s 115 years old, though I doubt someone so mean would still be alive.  Wishful thinking, I guess.  That she was born without a heart is a given.  So is the fact that she was a teacher of young children.  What she taught was fear.  She must have been a felon in another life, because in this life school was prison, and she was the warden.

I was a frightened tiny eight-year-old in Ms. Davis’s third grade class May 1953.  Fifty-six years later Aunt Judy drove me by her house last week to say goodbye to the awful memory of her.  It never occurred to me to drive by alone.  Her house was across the street from our first real home in America.  The mid-Phoenix neighborhood was poor, dingy, and small just a mile or so South of Osborn Road and Central Avenue.  However,  compared to a refugee camp in Munich, it was the American Dream as created by my Father, the house painter, complete with a huge tree for climbing in the front yard.

I sat in the car starring at both houses remembering not the bruised black and blue knuckles, but the embarrassment of being hit by my third grade teacher with a yardstick in front of the entire class my first day at my new school. 

Sheldon Kopp wrote an Eschatological Laundry List in If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.  Number 25 is “Childhood is a nightmare.”  Dr. Kopp was right.  We had only been in America three years; this was my third school.  I had to leave my beloved Mrs. Dye and  move to Osborn a month before the end of the school year. 

My parents bought their first house moving me from a tiny school of a hundred children to a gigantic monstrosity at the corner of Osborn and Central.  A school with 1000 children and half a dozen playgrounds.  The felony that caused the beating the first day at the new school, was getting lost on a playground too far from the classroom to hear the appropriate buzzer after lunch.  Different buzzers for different playgrounds, but Ms. Davis didn’t care.  She never even let me explain.  She marched me up in front of her desk, took out a 12 inch wooden ruler and beat my knuckles till I cried.

For years I sat in the last seat in the last row of every class I was in.  Then I met Bob Porter in eighth grade.  As usual I was in the last seat in the last row.  He sat in the seat in front of me.  We were voting for officers for our class.  He was running for Vice-President and I was running for Treasurer.  I tapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “Who are you voting for?”

He turned around and looked at me with a wrinkled forehead and question marks visible on the pupils of both eyes, “Myself, of course!  If you don’t think you are good enough to win, why should anyone else?”  Bob became VP of eighth grade of course.  I hear he’s is a black jack dealer in Vegas.

All rights reserved.  ©2009 by Sara Fryd