Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sr. What's Her Name, and the three ships

The library in my grade school had rows of books in half the room, and large, grownup round tables in the rest of the space. There was a blackboard facing away from the windows, which looked out on a black and grey stone grotto and the steep crabgrass covered hill leading up to the rectory. When it was library time, my small class sat at three tables near that oversized steel desk. The teacher had one of those big stamps with the date on it that I was perpetually facinated with, and a squishy bloody red inkpad. I don't remember her name, she was an older nun with the harsh germanic features that're sometimes termed masculine. She had a Dick Tracy shovel jaw and her glasses were those old horn rimmed Clark Kent specticals.

When it was time for art class, she sat at a table near the library books and showed us perfect and neat examples of what we were trying to make. The clown juggling the balls was OK, so was the cat made out of a lunch bag and pipe cleaners. But then there was the Christopher Columbus project. A collage, of sorts. One piece of construction paper containing a sun, ripply blue ocean and three ships which we could trace from the pattern sitting on her desk. The second grade project from hell.

First I disturbed the natural order of the universe by selecting magenta paper for the sky background. All the other kids had blue. I saw an inherant problem with this--first of all, the sky and the water couldn't be the same color. They were--technically. In Sr. So And So's world where the only blue in the universe was the royal blue contained in her eight pack of construction paper. There would be no contrast with the ocean, and I just couldn't abide by that.

There was also the matter of the sun. It was hanging awfully low in her picture to be in a blue sky. Magenta would make an acceptable sunset. Especially since I didn't have time to go shading stuff in and showing the gradation in the sky from blue to afternoon orange and pink. I only had one stuffy and humid September afternoon full of sticky uniform, ichy socks and post-lunch sleepiness to do this in.

I did cut out the blue paper for the ocean. It was the least I could do. Except I borrowed Heather's teal colored pencil to make the ocean nearest the edge of the paper (the shore was just beyond that, you see) green. Everybody knew ocean water was green, silly.

The great battle of wills came over the three ships. I explained very patiently that The Nina Pinta and Santa Maria were not all the same size. That was just rediculous. The ship that Columbus road in was bigger. Wasn't she paying attention first period when Sr. Mary Francis (ha, I remember HER name--she was the lady who turned my desk over because I was so gosh darned sloppy) was telling us all about it.

Sr. So and So told me that was fine, but I still had to use the pattern. So I turned the edge of my pencil out so that the tracing around one pattern would be bigger. I glued that bad-ass down, cut out a hot white sun (another point of contention) and took it home for my mommy to see.

Surprisingly, Sr. never told my mom about that library book I never brought back/brought back destroyed. Grade school's a weird place.


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