Last week we joined the lad as he began his fifth grade year in a new school in a new community. We had met Miss Gardiner, arithmetic teacher to the not-yet-dry-behind-the-ears charges that passed through her classroom doors. If it was suggested that she was an ogre, it was intentional. One of his classmates, whose name was Miller Gardner, was chastised by this witch for "not knowing how to spell his last name." Well, it might have been funny, but The Boy doesn't remember it that way.
The first day The Boy entered her classroom, the teacher asked him what "group" he was in.
Either verbally or by the confused look on his face, he replied, "Huh?" "What group," she said, "are you in-- A, B, or C?" Since math was a strong suit for The Boy, and since he had always done pretty well with it, he replied, "'A' group, I guess." He was placed with a group that would today be known as "remedial" or perhaps even "hopelessly clueless." To her credit, Miss Gardiner, within a week, notified the youngster that he was not where he belonged and that he should take his place in the "C" group at once.
How was this child, who had a four-year background in a school system where "A" denoted excellence and "C" meant so-so, to know that in this benighted and backward community* everything was turned topsy-turvy! True. A "C" was the top grade and the "A" denoted the likelihood that you were in danger of joining the ranks of the flunkees. It was as though The Boy had fallen down a rabbit hole.
Perhaps as bad as the indignities suffered inside the school walls were, the unhappy conditions on the "play"ground were worse. Play? Seriously, you're kidding. Marbles were not a choice during school hours. Are you kidding? No, we play softball and run footraces and stuff like that. Not optional; choose up sides! Which always meant, of course, that the last to be picked was The Boy. And not so much picked as de-selected, as in, with two people left to be chosen, the captain whose turn it is says, "We'll take Lorene. You get him," pointing his thumb in The Boy's direction.
*That's a joke, Dear Reader. It truly was one of the most progressive school systems in the nation at the time. Little did that matter to The Boy.