by Sharon Gerger
In 1962, I was six years old, and my family moved south from a small town to a big city. I started grade two in September. The first day, I sat in class at St. Mary’s as my teacher, Miss Forte instructed us to write a story about our summer vacation.
Writing stories was my favorite part of school. I was pretty excited as I handed it in. She looked at it and looked angry. She sent me and my paper out into the hall with instructions to knock on the door of the next classroom.
I no longer remember that teacher’s name, but I do remember her cruelty. Miss Forte hollered at her to look at what I had done. She looked at my paper, then ordered me to follow her to the office whereupon she hit my tiny hands with a leather strap, five times on each hand.
I don't remember the pain, only the terror. I had never been hit before and not since.
I had no idea what I’d done to deserve this treatment. Did I curse or was it sloppy or riddled with spelling and grammar errors? I will never know. I was too ashamed to tell my parents. I’m sure that if a record was made, it has long since been destroyed.
It scared me into trying to be invisible. I did okay in school, neither well, nor poorly enough to draw attention to myself. These two teachers succeeded in making me a timid and nervous student.
I was afraid to take any chances with my writing. I focused instead on the penmanship being neat and the spelling and grammar being as perfect as I could manage. I didn’t search for better, more complex words. I didn’t risk sacrificing perfect structure to get the feeling of anxiety or anger or joy I wanted to create in a story. I wrote perfectly boring crap.
I've prayed those women suffered with hemorrhoids every day since. Actually, I don’t pray. Bobby-pin chewing nuns at the same school stole my desire to be a good Catholic girl. Back then, females had to cover their heads in a church. The nuns who guarded the door as the kids walked into the church to attend weekly Mass, stood ready with bobby pins and paper towels. I am certain they purposely chewed the smooth plastic tips off the bobby pins they used to pin paper towels to the heads of the sinful girls, who like me, often forgot to bring a hat to school. I still have scars on my scalp.
In my thirties, I took a writing class, and I discovered I still loved to write. I've had a few pieces published, won some contests and have had the time of my life doing something I love to do.
Despite Miss Forte, I am a writer.
And I know my soul is clean and shiny, with or without a paper towel hat.
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You can find more of Sharon at http://sharongerger.blogspot.ca/
She lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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