Tag Archive | polio

The long and winding road

November already. My baby boy, Ben, will be 33 next week.

Again, where does the time go?

I recently realized it’s been 50 years since I started first grade – 50 years later I’m in school again. What a long and winding road it’s been.

We’re covering mentally and physically disabled people in Diversity and Oppression this week, which is what actually what made the “Wow, 50 years” light go off. Reading about disabilities in children took me back to a couple of elementary school memories, both of which have haunted me.

In my first grade class was a boy named I’ll call Elmer. (I remember his full name, how he dressed and combed his hair, and his rosy cheeks.) One day he just wasn’t there anymore and no one ever told us a thing.

I realized later that he was whisked off to a special school. He had an old-fashioned name and dressed like a little old man, so maybe he had older parents. I don’t remember ever seeing them. He didn’t communicate much – I don’t remember him speaking, actually – but he was very sweet.

But he wasn’t potty-trained, to put it nicely. Before he was just – poof – gone from his desk one day, he had several accidents of both kinds, to speak euphemistically. I don’t remember anyone being mean about it or making fun, and I don’t remember how our teacher, Mrs. Trent, handled it.

I’ve often wondered about him. And I wonder how things would be handled 50 years later.

(My first three grades were the T-name trifecta – Mrs. Trent, Mrs. Trusty and Mrs. Turner.)

The other memory is of a girl we’ll call Violet. She also had an old-fashioned name and an old-fashioned hairdo, and, sadly, she’d had polio and was wheelchair-bound. We didn’t think too much about it, but she must have really felt left out many, many times.

We did square-dancing for physical education in the third grade. Kelly and I and a couple of boys (can’t remember who) were on the “demonstration” team – we’d demonstrate new moves as we learned them and if I remember right, we also showed other classes the moves.

One day we were in the “cafetorium,” as they called the combo cafeteria and auditorium at North Heights, dancing, and Violet sat in her wheelchair watching. At some point our beloved Mrs. Turner let her go back to the classroom to read. When we got back to the room, Violet had poured Elmer’s glue in Kelly’s desk seat. Maybe mine, too – that’s a bit murky.

Fortunately no one sat in glue – the mischief was noticed in time. I remember being shocked at the blatant naughtiness of it and the unrepentedness of Violet.

Years later I realized what that was about – the proverbial light in my head went off. She wanted us to be glued to our chairs, as she was.

So sad. And so insensitive, really, with how things were handled. Instead of giving her an alternate activity, she was supposed to just watch us prancing, dancing and having fun.

I don’t remember her after that school year and I have no idea where she ended up. Maybe we just didn’t have anymore classes together.

But she’s haunted me, too.


On another note, speaking of prancing, we have Wrigley this weekend. She and Zuzu have been doing their usual nonstop playing since Ben dropped her off around 8:30 this morning. Both of them have slobbernecks, and they’re taking their first rest period at 11:35.

Wrigley and Zuzu take a time out. Wrigley is in her safety zone.

Lots of things going on this busy weekend all over the city and the state. At our house, it’s Dogfest.