An Apple for My Teacher?

If you tend have a weak stomach, this story may not be for you. Otherwise, here goes.

September always brings to mind memories of school days, most of them good ones. That’s why I chose APPLE as September’s Flavor of the Month

I never took an apple to a teacher, but I’ll never forget something else I left on Miss Hogan’s desk when I was a little first grader at the Hubbardston Elementary School in Michigan many years ago.

Bertha Hogan was probably not as old as I am today, but, of course, she seemed ancient to me back then. She had snowy white hair, the sweetest smile, and she walked slightly bent over due to the crippling effects of arthritis. But, she controlled that classroom of Grades 1-8 like a World War II army sergeant.

I remember sitting on the “recitation bench” in front of her desk with five or six other first graders, our feet not even touching the floor. In those days we did not buy our own textbooks. The school provided them, and if there were not enough to go around, we shared. That was the case with our phonics books.

Miss Hogan called on each of us to take a turn reading aloud from her phonics book while the others followed along in their shared textbooks. We had to stand next to her while she remained seated at her desk. I remember the pages of her teacher’s edition were clean, free of dogeared corners and finger prints–unlike the well-worn copies we students used.

I also remember literally shaking in my brown leather oxfords when my turn came to read aloud. For one thing, the classroom was full of all those “big kids” in the other grades–especially the eighth grade boys in the back row.

Time came for me to read and I started out slowly: “Top. Hot. Pot. Spot.” Suddenly the words seemed to move in waves across the page. I struggled to keep reading. “Pan. Man. Can.” Looking up from the page, the whole classroom was a blur before my eyes. Those big eighth grade boys looked like they were riding on a slow-moving toboggan. And the rhythmic sound of the phonics lesson only added to the queasy feeling in my stomach.

Suddenly without further warning, I threw up–yes, puked–all over Miss Hogan’s desk, completely covering that beautiful clean phonics book I admired so much. Without a hint of arthritis pain, she was on her feet and ushering me out the door to the bathroom. The only thing I remember was her asking me, “Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”

By that time I was in tears and couldn’t answer with any more than, “I want to go home.”

Oh, Miss Hogan, if you only knew. Had I any idea what was about to happen, you would have been the first to know!

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