Inspiration: Ragtag Daily Prompt: Pupil


5th grade
Public School Fifth Grade
New Jersey

I rarely hear the term pupil anymore. At least as it applies to schoolchildren.

However, back in the olden days – the 1960s – I was a pupil. One of many pupils in my 5th grade class. A large class by today’s standards…after all we were the babyboomers.  Schools would be scrambling to accommodate us for years to come.

Bizarre at it sounds, I still recognize those classmates – and can name almost all of them. Perhaps not always for the best reasons.

Fifth grade – when I turned 11 – remains sharp in my memory.  There is Andy, twin brother of Ellen, who I had a mad crush on. Probably because he complimented me on my kickball skills at recess. Debby…whose house I visited to play games and sleep over. Patti Ann, Judy and Dianne…the mean girl trio who took turns making my life miserable. Except when they didn’t and I thought we were friends. Kathy…the girl who was taller than me…a rare occurrence. Johnny…whose science experiment once blew up. Meredith…bullied because she was overweight. Eric…the boy who I think had a crush on me…although I was as clueless as they came. So who knows.

The only dress code of sorts applied to girls. We had to wear dresses or skirts. Except on once-a-week gym days. My favorite day of the week…pants!…sneakers!

Boys could wear whatever they wanted. Neckties only came out on school picture day.

In addition to Math, Science, Reading, etc., we were also graded on Penmanship, Behavior and Effort. Girls had gym and health class separate from the boys. Often a pupil…like me…stood in front of her class and gave the Spelling tests. And missed Social Studies to correct them for the teacher.

I wonder what happened to those kids. Now in their 60’s. The mean girls do not look as mean as I remember. I see no angry faces…or narrowed eyes…or…evidence of what happened. I also look happier than I was. It’s an odd perspective.

My family moved to another town when I started sixth grade.

I never saw those kids again.

Give Peace (and Education) a chance

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.

Maria Montessori



Vote YES for the middle school expansion!

Today is voting day in my small town. Or…as it was formerly known…Town Meeting Day. Or, more specifically, Town Meetin’ Day.

Many years ago, it was actually an open meeting for all town residents. Who assembled on folding chairs set up in the town hall. Votes were cast on various budget items and for the election of town officials. Attendees were given an opportunity to stand and voice support or opposition to the matters at hand. Sometimes a paper ballot. Sometimes just a voice vote.

Now, as the town has changed – and the population has increased – we vote in voting booths. In the former high school’s gymnasium. Exactly the same way we vote in the general elections.

Some may say these local elections are not all that important.
I disagree.
We are choosing the individuals who will sit on the School Board. We are voting for the members of the Board of Selectman, which governs our town. Making crucial decisions. Rules affecting how we live, where we live, where we park. Public safety. Fire trucks. Street signs. Police activity.  Water quality. Local businesses also absorbing the direct and indirect ramifications.

Today there are over 20 individual budget items to consider, including the annual operating budget. One item on the ballot – for the 3rd year in a row – is all about education.

The middle school desperately needs to be expanded and renovated. Each yearly proposal has slashed more of its requests to reduce the cost. Letters to the Editor in the local paper shout out We Need This! or A Waste of Money! Often implying that the senior citizens…or those without school age children…are the reason this hasn’t been approved.

The financial burden of property taxes (which is how our schools are financed) is real. I get that. But I also know that the dollar increase due to this ballot item is not extraordinary. It averages out to a few monthly meals at the local bar and grill over the course of a year. Maybe. Or a weekly latte at the coffee shop.

So I ask myself…why don’t people understand the significance of educating our children to the best of our ability? Why do they want to keep class sizes large and cram kids into a too-small cafeteria? No music room? Art on a cart? Educating the whole child…what happened to that, I wonder….and its ramifications if not done with care. And, yes, with some sacrifice.

As cliché as it sounds, it remains a fact: (Everyone’s) Children are the Future.

My children were raised in a different town than where I currently live. I will always be grateful to the citizens who voted in favor of school improvements and supported the teachers with the salaries they needed and deserved. Despite the sacrifice. I know many of those voters were senior citizens. Who had the foresight – and wisdom – to understand the need. And the significance.

Our children and their education is important.
Voting is crucial.
Let’s not take either for granted.


A long time ago

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #36: Wild Card

…Go back over the last week’s worth of posts or so, and notice any words or phrases that repeat themselves. I’m talking adjectives, or verbs, maybe nouns.



Long ago at the age of 9, I received
…a small red diary with a key.

I was one among many children
Armed with a powerful place,
To preserve what happened…
in the illusion of privacy.
Safely locked up tight with a tiny key
Hung on a tiny ribbon.
So long ago

And so it began.
This writing life.
For me and many others
A lifetime ago.

Pouring out our secrets. The ups and downs.
Today I went to school…After school I played outside...I collected bees in a jar…I poked holes in the lidI did my homework…it was hard.

Scrawled sentences tucked in at day’s end…I got in troubleI cleaned up the playroom…Nobody loves me…It is boiling hot out.
Today was an exciting day…we had hamburgers…went to the Dairy Queen.

I watched: The Addams Family…Valentine’s Day and Gomer Pyle.

Important pages to a young writer
Who never imagined
They’d be such a treasure
Many years later
When the age of 9 would be…

Such a long time ago


Stillness – Chapter One

This post inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #32: Stillness


Sit still, will ya?
Hold still!
Keep still!

The directives we receive along the way.
Quite often as children.
So the exasperated adults can do their thing.

Sit still…and eat.
Stand still…so I can help you get your coat on.
Lie still…and go to sleep.

In school even more so.
Sit still at your desk.
Stand still while you line up.
Keep still while I’m talking.

Vital lessons, obviously…

Being physically still can border on impossible for some children.
My little brother constantly used the dinner table as a drum. While tipping his chair back…way back.
My young son was affectionately compared to a Great Dane by his first grade teacher as his natural inclinations leaned toward constant movement.
“Refrain from excessive talking” was a black mark on my report cards during grammar school…an ongoing challenge to keep my mouth closed.

I wonder…if children were shown ways to be still
As a source of pleasure. Reward rather than punishment.
On some basic level…
Tempting their budding imaginations. As ready sponges.
Before screens and apps and television crowd in…
Shifting mind and body into overdrive.

Take a slow breath.
Close your eyes.
Take your time.
Pretend you are…
Think about…

From earliest memory.
The welcome calm.
Taking time. Undefined.
Discovering that stillness feels good.
A refuge for the mind…
…more crucial as the years fly by.

Maybe sitting still…
and waiting for recess to discuss the important events of the day…
would get just a bit easier.



Flash Fiction Challenge – Epic Workplace

Flash Fiction Challenge: September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.


My Contribution:


“I’m doing my works!”
The little girl demonstrates.
Carefully pouring water from cup to bowl.

The silent visitor watches in surprise.
She’s never seen such a grand school.
Small wooden tables and chairs. A low matching sink.
Sun pouring in on many bright, happy faces.

The little boy calls out “Me too. Look at my works!”
Red cubes stacked high.
A place for important work. For all.
Pouring. Sorting. Counting. Writing.
Girls and boys. Older helping younger.
Just like her.

The teacher, sitting on the big rug, smiles.
Please join us for circle time.
Welcome to Greenwood Montessori school.

Diaries Revisited – September

diaries line up


Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. I wore my coolest dress because it was 90° Boy it was HOT. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. After school I did my homework…Then I played Army…We watched TV. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. It wasn’t my day. I brought my lunch… (grade 5)


When September rolls around, traditions click into place. Even irrelevant outdated ones – when entrenched in childhood, they still rise to the surface years later. Like the cream floating on milk in those half gallon bottles delivered by the milkman when I was 9.

But I digress.

More like  whoops it’s past Labor Day, now I have to stop wearing white shoes.  Which, again, is no longer relevant. I don’t even own white shoes.

Labor Day. My childhood diaries mark its significance. Labor Day meant getting ready for school, the beginning of school and the end of summer. And my white footwear was shoved to the back of the closet until the following Memorial Day. Which was fine with me, as I preferred my Keds.


I put dividers in my notebooks…Maddy came over and helped me organize my notebooks…(grade 6)

Today I went to school…I began to understand the Math…(grade 6)

Today I went to school. We had Math. Then Science…After lunch & Social Studies we had gym. We played keep-away football…(grade 6)


September = shopping trips for school clothes. Sensible dresses, skirts, shoes. One year: dresses with attached poor boy tops. And then just poor boy tops. A CPO jacket. Penny loafers. Or – after much begging and cajoling – a bra. My my. And finally, after more begging – stockings and a garter belt. This was years before girls could wear pants to school. A new pocketbook – at some point – with my own saved-up money. Bought at a discount store with a girlfriend. One year a madras style. One year with fringe. If possible, with zippers.


I attended 5 public schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. There was always a wariness mixed with excitement before each school year started. Who would my teachers be? But mostly – who would the other girls in my class be? Would Diane be back to mock me and make me feel small? Damned if she didn’t follow me from school to school until we moved in my 6th grade year. Decades before bullying became a news headline, it was – of course – still rampant.


…Wore stockings to school. Had a terrible lunch – meatball hero. (grade 7)

Today I went to school…Came home and washed dishes, made salad & whip ‘n chill. (grade 7)

…My hair turned out great.* It stayed in all day. Even when it rained. (grade 7)


*Dippity-Do – another back-to-school must have. That stuff (plus pink plastic curlers) was magic for curling straight hair.

September = shopping for school supplies. I loved this part. Wandering the aisles at Valley Fair. The 1960’s version of Walmart plus Woolworth’s plus creaky wooden floors. Everything was in there – 45’s and pocketbooks and stockings and Wrangler dungarees and cheap cosmetics…and in September…a whole aisle of paper. All kinds. Notebook paper. Lined and unlined. Graph paper. Pads of paper. Yellow pads. White pads. Packs of pens and pencils hanging from hooks on display. Bic pens. Flair pens. Yellow pencils. Colored pencils. Blue three-ring binders. Black and white composition books. Smooth, blank and full of potential. Pink erasers. Notebook dividers. Pencil cases. Rulers. Protractors. When I discovered cartridge pens – with the little ink cartridges and calligraphy tips built right in:  Jackpot Fancy.


Tried on dresses so Grammy could shorten some. (grade 8)

Went to school. Hot out…After school I went to Westwood. Got a new pocketbook – has a chain handle. (grade 8)


I usually got a hair cut.  So did my sisters and brother.

Haircut. New dress. New shoes. Lunch. Notebooks and schedule. Ready to go.


Today I went to school. Today was the opening of the high school for all students. I really felt crowded today. The lunch was good…. (grade 9)


As I got older, September also marked changes in my after-school life.

Grammar school: Chores. Playing army with my brother. Or building a fort with my friend Kathleen. Riding my bike. Playing kickball in the street.

High school: Chores and babysitting my siblings. Lots of babysitting my siblings. Listening to records & AM radio. Talking on the phone, shopping or baking with my girlfriends. At their houses. At Wendy’s it was snickerdoodles. At Vikki’s it was fudge. Or maybe we just ate her mother’s fudge, because she was such an amazing baker. Vikki and I used to joke that we would widen our doors for each other when we got older. Forecasting the obesity that never materialized.

…back to September and another tradition…

First Day of School Picture

8th grade


Went to school…We had to write an imaginary story in English about what we would do with a super power. I picked invisibility. The lunch here is so much better than last year…On the way home the bus broke down & we had to change busses to get home…(grade 9)



why I don’t want to go to my 8th grade reunion

First of all, why would anyone have an 8th grade reunion? asked my 30-something daughter with more than a little incredulity.

Who does that? she muttered to me on the phone a few months ago.

I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective. Even though I initially had mixed feelings about going, I hadn’t questioned the idea. Someone is planning a 50th reunion this year and my best friend Wendy (also a member of the 8th grade class in question) wants me to go with her. She is going, as she lives close to the location. So I should go with her. Like we did back in the day…

Hey I’ll meet you in the girl’s room.

Come to my/your house after school.

Let’s go to Valley Fair and buy…

  • a new pocketbook,
  • trashy nightgowns,
  • the new Beatles 45

However, not this time. Except for Wendy, I have no connections with anyone from those days. I went to that school from 6th through 8th grade and afterwards we all dispersed to a consolidated high school with 2 other towns.  It wasn’t so incestuous in a class of 360.

Junior high: well, it was awkward.  For everyone. As it will be until the end of time. The mean girls and the bullies. And the rest of us walking the halls trying to fit in…or disappear. Eating hot lunch and pacing the blacktopped playground sizing up the daily dramas. The ever present worries: did I study enough? will I ever be popular? who is my friend today?  I did have some adventures in acting out; which was kind of exciting in a going-outside-my-comfort-zone kind of way.

1967 diaryedit march18

Mean girls – who certainly were in the minority, but unfortunately often set the tone – can direct a life of misery for those not in the “in group.” No matter how many different ways I set my hair with Dippity Do and pink plastic curlers, it didn’t matter. I never made it into the in-group. I was tall (uh oh), wore glasses (double uh-oh) and liked sports (fuggedaboutit). I often raised my hand in class and asked questions – that may have worked against me too. I do know that notes were passed and, when they got passed to me, the list of “who we don’t like” often had my name on it. The 1960’s version of text messaging.

So, again….why would I travel long distance, deal with a bad back for hours, pay money to sit (bad back again) and reminisce…

About the “good old days?”