Tag Archives: grade school

Bombardment

I went to a private school in grades 1-8. (Lest you immediately get the idea that it was a hoity toity place, let me be clear that if anything, the school was out of date, backward, and cheap in many, if not most respects. Said attributes may or may not be relevant to this story.)

We had regular gym class but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what sort of qualifications any of the adult instructors over the years had. Two frequent teachers were school mothers. Were they paid? Volunteers? Educated in physical fitness? Possessed by demons? I don’t know.

The boys & girls were routinely thrown together for activities all the way through eighth grade. This meant that 12, 13, and 14 year old boys were pitted against the same-age girls. One “game” where the genders were routinely mixed was Bombardment, a moniker which is both funny and more than a little twisted.

Bombardment was a little different from the more mainstream dodgeball (which was played in a circle outdoors). Using the school’s auditorium/gym as the venue, the players were divided into two teams. A line on the floor down the middle of the space separated teams during play. If a player stepped over the line, he or she was eliminated from the game ( “out”) and had to sit down on the sidelines.

Three – I think – hard, red rubber balls, about the size of basketballs or perhaps a shade smaller, were used. The object was to hit a player on the other side with a ball. That was the whole game. Hit a player on the other side – anywhere on their body – and they were eliminated. If, however, someone on the other team caught the ball, the person who threw it was out. The win was determined by eliminating everybody on the opposite team. All the balls were in play at the same time. The environment was mayhem.

It was not all all unusual for the teachers to make the game boys-vs-girls so this meant various boys could put all their aggression, hostility, sexual frustration, and what have you, into throwing those balls hard enough to knock some hapless girl nearly off her feet. Head shots were fine. Hitting a kid’s eye glasses was fine. Are we having fun now?!😕

Many of us girls, ill-suited to aggressive play and generally coached to be nice, helpful, kind, unassuming, meek – I could go on – sucked at this game. (Several of the boys, I should say, shared these traits. They were typically disdained by other boys, at least the more aggressive ones.) Our goal was primarily not to get hurt. Some people didn’t try at all, more or less allowing themselves to get hit by a ball, either by standing still like the proverbial deer or by not moving around very fast to “dodge” the ball. I guess their plan, if they had one, was to get eliminated quickly, i.e., take the pain up front & spend the remainder of class sitting on the sidelines.

The folks eliminated and relegated to the sidelines did not sit quietly. Oh no, they hurled “encouragement” and insults at their teammates. Why they cared who won I don’t really know.

I was not aggressive, didn’t have ball-throwing skills least of all in a desire to smack someone with one, but I had one asset: I was fast. That was my entire play. Run, run, run. Evade, evade, evade. I stuck close to the back wall and kept moving. Skinny & speedy, I was not an easy target. Which is not to say other kids didn’t try to hit me, they did. But the slow, the fat, and the weak were the first, easy targets (just like in the wild!😮).

Sadly, my tactic was only good so far. After many of my teammates were picked off in a given game, the rest of us became the targets. And with less people in play, you were more likely to get hit by a ball. I hated getting hit by a ball. It hurt! Plus, with most of your team gone – and now sitting on the sidelines screaming  – all the balls were being thrown at you and whoever remained, simultaneously. When they missed, the balls frequently rebounded off the metal grates covering the auditorium’s large windows. I can still hear the sound of the balls slamming into those grates. The ferocity in which the balls blasted into them was the SAME ferocity in which they hit YOU when they made contact.😢

It must have happened more than once, but due my successful running, bobbing, and weaving, I remember being the last player left in a game. Did I ever catch the ball out of sheer dumb luck? I vaguely think I did. But I know I got hit far more often.😐

Probably not the word you want to misspell

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January show & tell (mostly of December stuff)

Back in grade school I loved “Show and tell” day. Each kid brought in an item or a story and presented it before the class. I liked to hear the other kids’ stuff and I especially relished the chance to share something of my own. That trait has stuck with me. If you know me, you’ll probably be shown this-or-that interesting object or find semi-regularly. I just want to share my excitement.


A short aside/secondary intro which may or not belong here but I’ve opted to leave in:  The psychology of things, not surprisingly, is a strong interest and one I reference from time to time here; what we own, how we relate to our possessions, and, in this country, how people not only accumulate and hoard, but often rely on belongings both for self-definition and distraction from troubles. I’ve given a lot of thought to my possessions, have pared down considerably, and try to keep those things which I use or find beautiful or meaningful.


One year at holiday time, back in that small grade school I mentioned, a couple of the kids’ mothers made little Christmas stockings for each of the members of my class, even taking the trouble to put our names on them.

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I have kept mine. I wonder if anyone else still has theirs? See, I was so thrilled and touched at the time that someone had made this just for me, totally unexpectedly. The parents could have gone to the store and bought a couple dozen little stockings or given everybody identical ones, without bothering to personalize them, but instead they did something special. I wish I knew or could remember which mothers made them but I’m sad to say I don’t (I’m not certain I knew at the time).

It’s yet another reminder to me how much seemingly small gestures can mean to other people (for reasons we may never know). Too often I forget or misplace this knowledge, essentially how much we can impact others, even when we don’t know it, even with small gestures. It’s as if I can see how much I appreciate the things which have been done for me but often fail to realize how my gestures can impact others. Which isn’t to say that every gesture or kindness I (or you) do for someone else causes wild gratitude – or even should – but that we often don’t know, or maybe underestimate, the possibility of truly touching someone or maybe reaching out at an exact moment it’s needed.


My town never did big holiday decorations in what amounts to “the town square” before this year (they decorated but mostly in another location) and I was delighted for weeks by the results. Charming and tasteful. I caught these shots after a December rain at dusk, with the lights reflecting on wet pavement.

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I’m going to briefly step away from the post-holiday reflections theme to show you something I found a few years ago. (I forever remain a little kid who walks around looking at the ground in hopes of finding money or other treasures. Occasionally it pays off.)

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Now, I always took this to be merely an interesting-shaped rock. However, in the last several days I started to wonder if it might be an arrowhead. I’ve heard people talk about finding arrowheads, but honestly, I never knew what that meant exactly. I wasn’t thinking about the word literally enough, as in “the head of an arrow.” I probably saw artifacts in a museum somewhere along the way that would have included arrowheads, but I don’t remember for sure. Anyway, I googled arrowhead images now and the pictures mostly show a curved bottom, not a flat line like mine has. Two of the sides have a “finished” man-made look. So I don’t know. Either way I have a special rock.

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I found two tantalizing objects tossed out last week. They and a few other items were in a bag by the road (although I admit it’s a risky business examining bags left by the road) and for that reason went unnoticed by other people. I didn’t bother with them the first time I passed since I was out for a fast-paced walk but on another day I stopped when I saw them still sitting there.

The first is a string of magic lights! I wish I could show you a video but having attempted it, I get an “unsupported” message so that’s not happening. Anyway, they can do all these clever things. There’s a small box attached with a button that controls eight light settings. Some are flashy & wild and others more demure and peaceful. Admittedly, I don’t get around much, but I’ve never seen anything like them. There’s no recognizable manufacturer name but it does say “Germany” on the controller. They are so cheering. I just stare & stare as they run through their many colors.

The second item was more amenable to a photo session. This 3″ tall tin tea light holder is so detailed, with all the quintessential Christmas toy scenes. When I was a kid, I’d have been enthralled by it. And now, I still think it’s special.

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Here’s a little girl (or a big doll, your choice) with a bow in her hair, a snazzy doll house and a tea set.

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“Why yes, I would like a cup please.”

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Drum set, trumpet, blocks, and ball. (Somewhere a parent will be warning through gritted teeth, “If you pound that drum or blow that horn one more time, Young Man…”)

 

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Sled, wrapped package

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Of course, a “choo choo” train

This next and final diorama was initially puzzling.

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The teddy bear & spinning top are fine but the tall fellow on the back right gives pause. What the…?

The figure in the back resembles an upright, long-eared dog with muscular thighs. I’ve seen plenty of toy/tin soldiers – and having hit every stereotypical Christmas emblem on this tea light holder, that’s the only missing one – but he didn’t look like any I’ve seen.

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What Christmas is complete without… this guy?

I puzzled over it and then something clicked. The string lights came from Germany, so might that be the origin of the tea light holder too? I’m no history whiz but I got the notion to look up Hessian soldiers. I’m not sure that’s the right one – some images seem close – but it makes sense that the little guy is some kind of German soldier. Funny how everything else was so instantly, universally almost, recognizable, but this one aspect suggested a specific region.

 

 

 

Short Thought 99 (change)

The principal at the private grade school I attended was, for my first 6 grades, one Sister Anne Frederick, a name which unfortunately (for us) fit her. She wasn’t a robust, physically imposing woman – that would be the next principal – but a stern, pinched, mean-faced person of small, wiry stature in the vein of Margaret Hamilton’s child-hating Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West.

The last principal I heard of, before the school closed down some years back, was – get this – “Tiffani.” Tiffani ending with an “i” no less.

Short Thought 62 (old classmates)

I doubt very much I’m the first person to think this about my past, but if you had told me in grade school and high school what might become of some of my classmates, I wouldn’t have believed it. Teenage pregnancies, suicides, prison, heart disease, deaths, divorces, alcoholism, and romantic pairings I’d have never considered. And this is just the stuff I happen to know about.  When I think about old classmates, even if I know them in present day, I still imagine kids. And these sorts of things don’t happen to kids.