February in Mrs. Seal's class

It is the ninth day of the dreary month of February ... for years I have hated February. All kinds of bad things have happened in February, and it just seemed like it was bound to be a horrid month every year. But this year, for some odd reason, it feels like third grade.

In the third grade, Mrs. Seal (the "meanest teacher in the school") started every morning with a pledge to the flag and a patriotic song. I'm nearly fifty years old now, and I wonder in amazement at the fact that Mrs. Seal had not gone deaf in self-defense. Oh, we children could sing all right. But some of us also took piano lessons. There was always a student accompanist for the patriotic song. I remember because I was one of them.

There was a calendar in Mrs. Seal's class. A big one. It was on the wall across the room from the big windows, and every month there was a new one. The students took turns putting the date (a number on a construction paper circle) onto the calendar each morning. This special privilege entailed the use of rubber cement. I adore rubber cement. Have you ever used it? Nothing else smells like rubber cement, and nothing else does that particular kind of gluey, stringy, stickiness. The lid has a brush on its underside, so you have to lift out the brush, all heavy with the wonder of the stickiness, and you have to break the string - like getting honey out of the honey pot and onto your toast. Then you paint the circle (on the back), and then you put it in the next square on the calendar (right side up), and it sticks. There is it, in all its red circle-y perfection. The next day in February.

February used to have three big days in it. There was Valentine's Day (admittedly a bit confusing, but there were cookies) and there was President Lincoln and President Washington. The presidents have black construction paper silhouettes for the calendar instead of numbers on a circle. And we had to put those up early - we weren't in school on those days.

How odd that third grade's February was the month of patriotic songs, rubber cement, and Presidents' Days. I do not remember gloomy weather, rain and sogginess, or trudging back up the hill to go home in it. I remember the red circles and black silhouettes on the calendar. I remember Mrs. Seal - the meanest teacher in the school. I remember how horrified I was on the first day of school to discover that I had to be in her class (everyone knew she was the meanest teacher, and my mother simply did not care!), and I remember a hundred things about being her student that year. I remember order, and calm, and creativity in music and drawing and even square dancing, and I remember my reading book. Today, while I look out my window at the bare tress and the chilly, soggy mud underlying everything, all at once I've got the urge to find some construction paper and open a pot of rubber cement.

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