Weekend Assignment # 339: Happy Endings
Tell us about the last day of anything: the last day of school or a job, your last day as a smoker, the last day before you moved or got married, the last day before you got that car you always wanted, or even the last day of a particularly memorable vacation. Here's the catch: I'm looking for happy memories here, happy endings rather than tragic ones.
Extra Credit: What happened the next day?
Oh! I remember. It was the last day before I graduated from high school. I think it was a Friday. Final exams were over, and for the Fayetteville-Manlius High School Class of 1975 the morning had been given over to a graduation dress rehearsal. The ceremony would be the next day.
They must have dismissed us around 11 AM or noon, but I either didn't go home or came home only to go back out. I thought that, this being my last day in the F-M school district, it would be nice to visit a few teachers from when I was younger - much younger. The school in which I went to fourth through sixth grades was long gone, and the junior high had moved even further toward the edge of town several years earlier. But Manlius Elementary still existed, and was right across the street from Temple's Dairy Store in the village of Manlius, about a mile from my house. So that's where I went.
I'd had a succession of kindergarten teachers in two different schools, and I don't know where my second grade teacher, Miss Nevin, was by 1975. My last encounter with her had not gone well, so I wasn't all that interested in seeing her anyway. But my first grade teacher, Mrs. Livingston, and third grade teacher, Miss Olds, were still at the old school when I arrived. The elementary school wasn't having classes that afternoon, either, but the teachers were there, finishing up for the day and for the school year.
Surprisingly, as I recall, Mrs. Livingston and Miss Olds (they probably used the term Ms. by then) were in adjacent classrooms that day instead of two different hallways by grade. Even more surprisingly for me, they seemed to be close friends. When I dropped in on Miss Olds, who remembered me, she wanted me to go see Mrs. Livingston, too, which I did. Understand: Miss Olds was my favorite teacher in elementary school, while Mrs. Livingston was my least favorite. I'd had run-ins with Mrs. Livingston. She marked me down for not finishing all the problems in Getting Ready to Read, when she knew I was already reading at the second or third grade level. (I honestly didn't see the point in circling everything that started with M.) She didn't explain to me that part of the point was to do the work anyway, as a matter of learning to complete tasks and prove that you can do the work. She used to write "does not follow directions" on all my report cards, and once told my mom she had nightmares about me, which I think my mom resented. But here she was, genuinely glad to see me, am adult talking to another adult. At 18 years old, I finally got to see Mrs. Livingston as a regular human being, and I really liked her. And I remembered that Mrs. Livingston used to read stories and poetry to us, A A Milne and Ogden Nash and lots of other stuff. That alone more than made up for any misunderstandings between us.
I enjoyed chatting with both teachers, and left the place feeling both grown-up and appreciated. It was lunchtime, so I headed over to the Manlius location of Burger King, which had just been converted over from a Carrols Restaurant, the local burger chain I'd grown up with. Standing in line at the counter, I noticed Miss Olds, waiting right behind me to order her own burger. She laughed and smiled. "Synchronicity," she said.
Synchronicity was a word I'd heard before, but I wasn't quite sure what it meant until I went home and looked it up. On my last day of high school, my third grade teacher still had things to teach me.
And the next day? I graduated, of course. I think the gowns were in forest green, one of the school colors. We had a picnic in the back years afterward, and my parents gave me a Coronamatic typewriter.