Remember “Goodnight, Mrs. Callabash…wherever you are,” Jimmy Durante’s sign-off on his famous television show? His was a reference to his first wife, a secret code between them, all explained if you click on this link. Here’s my version of this…
To whom am I dedicating this column? Miss McCormick…I think her first name was Gladys (Is that named used anymore, by anyone?)
Most of us who had her, as teacher, remember her fondly, even if she had a bizarre penchant for interrupting class time, to beat a hasty retreat, into her walk-in closet at the front of her room for a quick hike-up of her bra strap and a spritz of “Evening in Paris,” the perfume in a cobalt blue bottle adorning one of the shelves.
Most of us would tell you, too, that she was the best teacher we ever had.
Whenever I’m out and about, today, on a pure whim, I’ll get a fleeting thought and I remember our ninth grade teacher, the one who filled the blackboards with written script we had to memorize.
It was before the era when memorizing by rote was frowned upon, replaced by more cerebral activities like “Make the kiddies feel better about everything.”
Her class is where I committed to memory Coleridge’s “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” with “By thy long grey beard and glittering eye…Wherefore stoppeth thou me?” or “This is the forest primeval/The murmuring pines and the hemlocks” from Longfellow’s “Evangeline.”
I climbed up the overstuffed chair to sit on the lap of the Dad who beckoned his 3 daughters to come for his readings, whenever I think of Longfellow’s: “Between the dark and the daylight, when the light is beginning to lower (say it “lau-er,” the way she taught us)…Comes a pause in the day’s operations…That is known as the Children’s Hour.”
We paid our respects, too, to our nation’s dead who were killed in battle for our liberty, by memorizing the Canadian physician, Colonel John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field the poppies blow…Between the crosses row on row…That mark our place and in the sky…The larks still bravely singing, fly.”
Because of Miss McCormick, I remember these, and I remember the emotions they convey. Even more remarkable? I don’t think any other teacher affected me the same way…ever.
Oh, sure there was Dr. Klein at URI who taught history and when I exhausted all the history courses he taught (I’d have taken the “History of Trash-Collecting if he taught it,) I sadly moved on…but I never forgot him. As tribute to his fine teaching, I majored in the subject.
But a huge part of my attraction to him was his svengali personna. I adored him, in a more passionate (if secretive) way. All of us girls did.
No, Miss McCormick lit the fuse of imagination, in me, and another amazing fact: I never knew it at the time. It took me years to realize her full impact on me.
Just like today, on a day trip to Mystic, Connecticut, where I caught a glimpse of The Ancient Mariner restaurant on Main Street. The associations come flooding back.
So “Miss McCormick…Good night, wherever you are” (you’ll never realize the extraordinary lifetime impact you had on one young girl.)
The restaurant above is on Main St., Mystic, and it got me to thinking: Maybe owner is another one of Miss McCormick’s students.
Now, speaking of the Mystic region, here’s a bit of whimsy greeting travelers on Rt. 1, between Westerly, Rhode Island and Mystic, Connecticut…two mannekins dressed up as fisher-people, with fishing poles, etc.
And the colorful banner across the top of my website? It’s my photo version of wonderful glasswork by Jeffrey P’an, brilliant artist in his craft, at his store, also on Main Street, Mystic. Told you–It’s worth the trip!
Now, for a closer look, click on the picture….Click twice on it, for bigger picture, still…
Question: Have you been to Mystic? Even more fun, have you see the two facsimile ‘humans’ on the dock? Were you one of Miss McCormick’s students?