Third grade was my first year in the United States. My school days prior to that year were half day English, half day German. We were living on the local economy and I suppose it was useful to have German language skills. My mom would give me 10 pfennings twice a week and we would go the market and have to buy a short list of items: a brochen, and a piece of fruit.
I remember a few significant events from third grade…my new adventures in lunch (previous post) and my teacher, Miss Cusick. She was young, it seems. She had amazing handwriting. Her cursive was perfect. Perfectly aligned. Perfectly shaped. Didn’t matter what she wrote on, it was perfect. I was so enamored with her writing ability, I stole her pen. It had a red end and a black end. It had a shape to it that made writing easier. I learned that writing cursive was a skill. I got in trouble the entire year for writing my name in cursive at the top of my papers, because it wasn’t instructed. It got me seated in the back of the room, behind a large poster cart. I was segregated from the rest of the class. I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me. To this day, I believe the worst punishment you can place on a child is to ignore them, separate, shun.
Miss Cusick decided to have us eat lunch in the classroom, rather than the cafeteria. We still had to trek down there, even the bringers. We would carry our lunches back to the classroom and before anyone could eat, she took polls. It was your opportunity to raise your hand and offer anything you don’t care to eat. I suppose she had some sense that it was better to barter your least favorite lunch parts rather than throw it away. And if someone else would eat it, then she was really ahead of her time. That is such a green thing to do. Recently, I participated in a project called The Four Pounds of Cheese Project. The gist was to photograph anything you were throwing away from your kitchen that was edible. I found it fascinating and easy. I learned that in third grade.
I ate a lot of canned spinach and beets that year.
Miss Cusick was probably younger than I thought she was at the time. She was single, I figured by her name. She had short curly hair. They were big, bouncy curls. She had white straight teeth. She always wore a dress. She was round, everywhere. For some reason and maybe she knows when it started, but we exchanged cards and letters in the mail. The last letter I wrote to her was addressed to Lee’s Summit, Missouri. I think I had my second son. I always used my best handwriting and it was modeled after hers.