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September 14, 2002

The Friday Five! (late edition)

1. What was/is your favorite subject in school? Why?
English. I've always loved to read and discuss literature.

2. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Mr. Cicero, who taught my junior year of high school English. His hair was silver, and he wore light tortoiseshell reading glasses that were crescent-shaped - half-moon rims, I liked to call them. His low, melodic voice was a pleasure to listen to whenever he would read passages of some of the great American authors - Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Melville, Miller. He even made Hawthorne seem interesting. He engaged you - if you made an observation that he felt truly expressed the essence of a work, he'd look you in the eye, point your way and emphatically say "yes!" Each class seemed heady, intoxicating, as if these literary doors and windows were flung open just for us.

He won me early on. Over the summer I had read Russell Baker's Growing Up and was particularly struck by the chapter about his essay "The Art of Eating Spaghetti," where he first realized he could be a writer. Besides the typical papers and readings, we also had writing drills to prepare for the AP exam. For one of our first, I wrote about having just gotten a dachshund puppy, just to get something, anything, onto paper. The next class, he read it out loud, and my heart was in my throat - the experience seemed to echo Baker's when his own teacher read his words aloud to the class. To have Mr. Cicero find merit in my writing was a dizzying thrill. (Sadly, all I've got to show right now are a few poems and this blog.)

3. What is your favorite memory of school?
I have several:
On the first day of first grade, as my father walked me to school, I asked him where I would go to college. He truthfully answered that he didn't know.

Being a volunteer in the fourth and fifth grade and by turns annoying and amusing Ms. Segal, the school librarian. Later, in another school, another place, the library was my retreat from the agony of seventh grade - that was the year I discovered Anne McCaffrey and the joys of Harper Hall.

On the last day of Mr. Cicero's class, I got my fellow students to stand up on their desks - yes, like in Dead Poets' Society, damn it! I read the last passage from Whitman's Song of Myself ("I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world"). He was certainly surprised! Corny as hell, but heartfelt anyway.

4. What was your favorite recess game?
Red Light, Green Light. One person is "it" and while she counts with her back to us, the rest of us rush up as far as we can from our designated line, then freeze in position when "Red Light!" is called. We move again when she says "Green!" and try to reach to safety, while the "it" girl has to try and tag people out before they get there.

5. What did you hate most about school?
The feeling of not fitting in, because my family always moved just when I started to feel settled. The emotional and physiological angst of adolescence. People trying each other on for size as friends, then dropping some in favor of others. I was by turns a drama kid, an alternative/New Wave kid, student government, honor society...trying to figure out who I was, where I fit in and with whom. Never mind having unrequited crushes and thinking no one would ever want to go out with me.

Yours, &c., LC | 12:07 AM | Memes