I read in several publications that negative events are remembered in greater detail than positive ones, which is probably why I remember third grade more than fourth grade. I cannot recall anything happy about that year. I did not like my teacher. She was old and mean and was a firm believer in group punishment. Casey, you would have been in deep trouble if you had her because she didn’t like lefties. I believe she tried to “cure” Aunt El.
According to Aunt El, she very clearly remembers our teacher moving her pencil from her left hand to her right hand because she said it was sinister. Aunt Ellen switch it back when “the bitch” (your aunt’s words) wasn’t looking.
That year, we went on a field trip to the Newark Junior Museum. I’m not certain if that is the correct name or if it still exists today. We were ushered into a room for a “let’s learn about fun things here” lecture. The not-so-nice man giving the talk brought out a “surprise”, which was a big, black ugly snake. I moved to row five.
The boa constrictor was followed by a lizard. I was not happy, and that is where my fear of all snakes originated. This is not good since we now live where poisonous snakes are all around us. Fortunately, I have only seen garter snakes and three-foot long “harmless” rat snakes. (Harmless. right! In certain settings, any snake could cause my death by heart attack.)
I don’t know what someone did to cause our teacher to punish the entire class. It was probably because she caught a lefty switching their pencil to the right hand. Anyway, the punishment was that we had to “write” our Roman numerals from 1-100. The thing is, her instructions were not to actually write them using a pencil. That would be way too easy! Instead, we had to paste them onto a very large sheet of paper using toothpicks. I admit that I still remember most of my Roman numerals, but that was a mean punishment!
During third grade, President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember coming home from school and seeing Aunt Marian and my cousin Nancy sitting in our living room crying. That was the only time I remember watching television during dinner. We had a television which Grandpa put on a cart and wheeled into the hall near Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom so we could watch the continuing news coverage of the assasination while we ate each meal.
I watched the events unfold in living black and white: President Kennedy shot as he rode in the motorcade, Jackie Kennedy standing next to Lyndon Johnson in her blood-stained outfit as he was sworn in as president, and then his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald shot on television as everyone across America watched in horror. Grandpa yelled and pointed to our television set as if he were the only one able to see the hand emerge from the crowd to shoot the man in cold blood. I will never forget any of this, even though I was only eight years old.
I wish I could forget that year, but as a bad memory, I will always remember third grade. It was the year of snakes and toothpicks.