"Do you know a guy named Jay Rosenblum?" a classmate in graduate school in the mid 1990's asked me who was going on a blind date with Jay that evening. Coincidently, Jay would go on a blind date with her and leave early to meet some friends at a bar where he would run into our mutual friend, Scott. When Jay told Scott about the blind date that did not go well, Scott told Jay he had the perfect girl in mind for him.
To answer my classmate's question, I did kind of know a guy named Jay Rosenblum. He was two years younger and for my 7th grade year and his 5th grade year in 1983-84 we were in Middle School together and I am sure we passed one another many times in the hallways unaware that one day we would play a significant role in each other's life. In my memory, what stands out most about him is his big head of curly hair that he referred to as his fro. The guy with the fro was short and skinny and had a very friendly smile. Jay remembered having a crush on a girl in 7th grade he saw in the school yearbook.
Although we might have caught a sideways subconscious sparkle out of the corner of our eyes as we passed in the hallway, we did not "go together" like I wanted to with Chad Chilton and did with Peter Stelling. This would not be the year we would fall in love with one another but we both felt a love for our school that would make deciding where to send our kids to school easy.
Jay went to USN from 4th-12th grade and loved to tell all of the parents at USN that it was his alma mater. I remember saying to him on more than one occasion "Babe, everyone knows you went there and they probably don't really care that much." But Jay would not listen and he would love to recount with people the teachers he had and mention in every single parent teacher conference that he won the math award. Jay could get away with it because he was so passionate and engaging. If Jay loved something or someone, he was humble but not shy to express himself.
I, on the other hand am a little shy and I would keep most of the memories that swirled through my head to myself. But every time I walk into the school, even though the building has completely changed, it is easy to go back in time and remember my First Grade classroom where Junebug left after her first day of First Grade never to return quite the same after the night of her loud and sudden loss.
I also remember the smell of powder soap and the hamburgers in the cafeteria at lunch. I remember the locker room and the swimming pool and nap time in Kindergarten and my sweet second grade teacher, Ms. Driscoll who loved my handwriting. I remember bringing left over wedding cake into my 3rd Grade classroom after my mom remarried and I definitely remember my 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Pangle who terrified me.
Ms, Pangle often scolded my best friend, Scott for his shoes always being untied. The same Scott who would later tell Jay at a bar after a blind date that he had the perfect girl in mind for him to meet. In Ms. Pangle's class we read a book a week and wrote a book report and remembered every single word of our Wordly Wise definitions by heart. She expected us to work hard and you did it because you kind of believed that she was watching you even when you were at home. Yes, she was that scary. "Don't Tangle with Ms. Pangle" was our motto. Her motto was "grin and bear at it." Her lesson was "life is not always fair."
Junebug finally figured out that if she asked to go the health room during art and told the nurse she was sick, the nurse would call her mom and Mary Katherine would pick up Junebug from school and they would watch As The World Turns while Mary Katherine ironed. She got away with this for a few days until one day the nurse instead of calling her mom, told Junebug Ms. Pangle wanted to see her and she definitely knew this was not good because the rest of her class was still at art.
Junebug could feel the butterflies in her stomach and the tears in her eyes as she walked to the classroom alone. Ms. Pangle invited Junebug to sit on her lap which was odd because Ms. Pangle was not the kind of teacher you would think would want a child on her lap. Junebug cried on her lap as she cried every morning before school and Ms. Pangle understood she was afraid. I don't remember our conversation but I do remember Ms. Pangle asking me every morning after this day to see if I had cried before school "red eyes or white eyes?" She would give me a little extra attention on the day I said red and a big smile on the days I said white.
We got through 3rd Grade together and she became that one teacher who stands out more than others. I remember seeing her at Scott's funeral where I gave a eugloy for my long time best friend. I know more than most, she knew how much Junebug had grown into herself to have the courage to speak about her beloved friend whose shoelaces were always untied and who was right when he told Jay he had the perfect girl for him to meet.
I left USN one year after Jay started USN. My parents felt I needed a different school because academically and emotionally I was struggling. In those days, ADD and grief in kids were not understood as they are today and as much as I loved USN, leaving was right for me at that time.
I feel myself now wanting to lay a stake in the ground claiming my school that was once a very small school in a very small city. I know time has moved on in the now trendy city I live in and the trendy school my kids attend. I know it is not mine to claim but more than ever in my tender spot right now, I find myself revisiting the voices and faces that were the backdrop to my so much of my story. I know we all have stories and ownership of the places that are a part of our foundation and they have equal significance as we pass one another in the hallways of our lives.
I miss Scott and his goofy laugh and his huge heart and how he always got in trouble. And the woman who worked in the cafeteria who put the hamburger on my plate; and the janitor Fred who was friendly to everyone and who most likely refilled the powdered soap in the bathrooms. I remember with warmth the the headmaster, Mr. Sperling who was kind and humble and full of passion for his school and my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Taylor. I can still hear Jubil Young share his Curious George for show and tell in First Grade every single day. I miss the hallways where a sparkle might catch my eye as I walked past the short, skinny guy with the fro and the friendly smile. I miss what we had and our love we shared so deeply for a place that for a moment in time was ours.
Ben Folds Five Philosophy