I hadn’t written anything for a while and decided, in a spirit of fun, to check into “www.creativewritingprompts.com” and craft a piece based on whatever I clicked on, which just happened to be: “List seven remarkable experiences in your life. Then write about each experience in the next seven days.”
Well, I nixed the” seven days” aspect of the assignment and opted to simply see if I could think of some noteworthy goings on in my seven plus decades of living.
The first remarkable experience that came to mind, for some reason, was a vision of me on my very first day of school, looking up at the statues that lined the entranceway. One featured Christ, nailed to a cross, “for my sins” I was told, which made me think, this man had to die because I stole a peach off Mrs. Warner’s peach tree? What’s wrong with this picture? Next was Mary with a look on her face that seemed to say, in retrospect, “How in the hell am I going to explain this situation to Joseph?” And then there was Blessed Martin de Porres, a black saint, the school’s namesake, who looked like he was about to bust a soft shoe tap dance move.
Remarkable experience number two, came right after number one, in rapid succession, in the form of an immense dark shadow. It was the school principal, an impressive being who had a big head, thick linebacker type neck and shoulders, Bubba like beer belly, gorilla looking thighs, ass kicking legs and snow shoe feet! And let, me tell you, as I found out several times before the day was over, she was mean! Sister Mary Benedict.
No sooner than I was wondering how she could talk with all that fire roaring out of her mouth (Hey, that’s how I recall it out of the fear at the time), remarkable experience number three un-folded. Rusty, the meanest dog in the neighborhood, a creature who, it was said, collected letter carrier and meter readers’ butts as a hobby, had somehow gotten loose from his yard (probably chewed through the steel fence) and charged onto the school grounds and headed straight for Sister Mary Benedict. Foolhardy idea if there ever was one. Before he, or any of us kids watching, could go “Oh! Oh!” SMB had reached under her habit like the fastest gun in the west, coming out with a yardstick, and whacked Rusty across the nose with a force that still makes me wince. Rusty was so caught by surprise he didn’t know whether to yelp or fetch or heel. He did know not to take anything approaching another step towards our principal.
Little did I know that later on I would be introduced to that woman’s long ruler. But in the meantime, the next remarkable experience, mild in nature, entered the scene. It simply defied logic, even for an innocent little dude like me because, you see, in my classroom there was a little fan blowing across a shallow pan of water, as if that was going to affect the temperature in a classroom in Tucson, Arizona in late August or early September. I mean the fan was even going: “Damn, it’s hot in here.”
Before I knew it I had dozed off to sleep in the heat. And I remember, in my dreams, hearing a “Whack!” (RE5) sound just like the one that robbed Rusty of his self-esteem earlier in the day and I awakened, screaming and holding my right hand, wondering where a couple of my knuckles had gone. “Were you asleep?” “No, sister!” “Don’t you lie to me!” “Whack!” “There is no sleeping at Blessed Martin de Porres! Scrape your knuckles off the blackboard and return to your seat! I’m letting you off easy this time.” Did, I hear her right? Easy? At the moment I couldn’t think of a punishment that could top practically losing a hand. That would be some kind of remarkable experience.
The sixth remarkable experience, a secret I’ve held in all these years, for my own safety, is the satisfaction of having formed a “finger” underneath my tee shirt directed at you know who, over and over again, during all the years I was at the school, and never being caught. Maintaining one’s dignity comes in many forms.
As one who has had who knows how many remarkable experiences in my life, I had no idea when I began this writing exercise that I would limit them to one day, but obviously that day stands tall in my mind. But the most remarkable experience (el numero siete) of the day was realizing in my heart and soul, at some level, that something wasn’t educationally sound or healthy about Blessed Martin de Porres School’s approach to teaching. I knew at the end of that first day of school that I would teach some day, feeling that learning could be fun and exciting. And I was so right as I’ve had many a remarkable experience in classrooms turning kids on to the 3 R’s and life.
So all is forgiven. An extraordinarily remarkable day directed me towards a life I’ve loved by showing me what not to do. That, in and of itself, I think, is remarkable.