I had a good three years.
I had fun with my friends. (My two closest and I formed OYLTO, a Treaty Organization, utilizing the first letters of our last names. NOTE: Since I have a history of fictionalizing my friends’s names, I have fictionalized their initials too.) I played soccer ineptly and baseball semi-eptly. I gave a my generation’s definitive interpretation of the villainous, one-eyed Duke of Coffin Castle, in our fifth grade (unauthorized) adaptation of James Thurber’s “The Thirteen Clocks.” (This performance was slightly sullied by my overlooking my decision to raise my eye patch between acts and re-don my glasses and then resuming my portrayal with my glasses in place and my eye patch in the middle of my forehead.)
I received less critical acclaim when, my spirited, if thoroughly off-key audition performance of “The Halls of Montezuma” failed to win me a seat in the school chorus, and I was cast to stand mute as Joseph in a Nativity scene tableau, while nearly everyone else among my contemporaries sang Christmas carols. My father, among the aisle-sitters, was most critical in his assessment of finding his son in this role.
Friends’ Central’s grades ran, top-to-bottom, “Outstanding,” “Above Usual,” “Usual,” “Below Usual,” and “Seriously Below Usual.” I got “O”s in Reading, Literary Appreciation, Written Composition. I got “A”s in Oral Composition, Arithmetic, and Social Studies, for which I recall composing papers on Peru and Albania, researched entirely in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Jr. I got “U”s in Art, Crafts, Music, and Phys. Ed. So I obviously pre3maturely concentrated on the Core Curriculum aspects of the process.
Even more noteworthy were my teachers’ comments. From the start, I was identified as someone “not… working to (his) full ability,” a judgment whose accuracy I would confirm throughout my academic life. I needed to improve “self-control” and “neatness.” I did not pay attention to “detail.” I lacked “organization.” I was “careless,” easily distracted” and, in class, “disturbing.” [On the other hand, Miss Griffiths, who taught me both in fifth and sixth grades and who penned most of those complaints, also complimented my “fine sense of humor,” “incisive comments,” and “mature grasp of current affairs.” I was, she concluded, “a stimulating person to teach.”]
Each report card afforded space for parents to reply. My mother took the opportunity to note how pleased she was at my “progress” and how I seemed “to be enjoying school…” (Adele, on reading these comments, said they raised my mother even further in her estimation for her ability “to focus on the important things.”)
My father did not commit his thoughts to paper. But he was free with them around the dinner table. Public schools had been fine for him. And if I did not do better at FCS, he would yank me out.