Sunday, April 15, 2007

More Tales from the First Grade

"And we don't notice any time pass
we don't notice anything
we sit side by side in every class
teacher thinks that I sound funny
but she likes the way you sing." --Jack White

I can’t remember if he was a Geoffrey with a “G” or a Jeffrey with a “J” but he was definitely one or the other.

He was the cute, blond haired boy forever equipped with a wickedly, mischievous grin (probably etched onto his face from birth) who along with a cast of other charming and intriguing souls, brightened First Grade for me. The year was 1979.

You may recall a story I shared some time ago about another classmate from that year, a lad whom I’ve affectionately referred to as the First Grade Exhibitionist. He sat in the desk adjacent and most definitely added spice to the classroom experience.

A little further, behind the "Exhibitionist" sat Sasha, a thoughtful and intelligent boy who was uncommonly polite for his six years. He spoke with patient pauses, and seemed grandfatherly, so naturally I assumed he was one. He always had sweaty palms and wore large sweaters. He was the first boy I ever slow danced with (or was forced to dance with in gym). I thought it ironic, that I was required to hold hands with a boy who had uncommonly sweaty hands. Luckily, for him, he got hold of me before my chubby period set in. Somehow, it balanced out.

Then there was Geoffrey (Jeffrey). He sat in front of me for a time. I thought him simply to be silly. He often spoke out of turn, told jokes or giggled insanely at inappropriate times.

His uninhibited laughter stands out in my mind.

That year I had the great misfortune of accidentally seating myself in a wad of freshly chewed gum, thereby inheriting the even greater misfortune of having to walk around with sticky orange gum smeared all over my ass. I tried to cover up but eventually had to inform the teacher of what had happened…in front of the whole class.

Geoffrey on cue turned around and giggled madly. I was not amused. In retrospect, I do believe that he genuinely thought it to be a funny occurrence. I don’t think the laughter was out of malice (I’m hoping). It would have been funny if it had happened to someone else’s rear end, I suppose.

Geoffrey was also quick to jump out of his chair, when the Exhibitionist invited an audience. He often got into trouble for his ways but laughed it off, always. If he was mischief and laughter, I was calm and fearful. Yet, I believe we were equally curious about life. Being quiet and having such classmates to observe was like finding hidden treasures.

As it happened, one day Geoffrey and I were required to work together. We had to measure the width of our school’s hallway with a couple of yellow rulers (the ones with the black markings, remember them?). He wasn’t too pleased to have to work with a girl, nor I a boy. After all, I thought him mildly insane.

He began the task by ignoring my presence, and of course, exerting a dose of first grade machismo. However, upon seeing his partner perplexed and clueless as to the task at hand (I wasn’t sure how to use a ruler and was too shy to ask), he slid across the floor and kindly started whispering instructions to me. Together Geoffrey and I scaled the width of our school hallway, just outside Mrs. M's Grade One classroom, working feverishly with those yellow rulers, marking notes down on newsprint as we went along.

I had always thought him to be the teasing, silly sort but, when given the chance, he had kindness in him.

He was also smarter than he let on. He was in my second grade class too. I don’t remember much about him after that. He may have been in my third grade class, but I unfortunately cannot recall. I think he eventually moved elsewhere in Ontario. He may have even teased me later on, it's what little boys do I suppose. I remember that laugh though, and the unexpected kindness.

Years have passed, age six directed us into our thirties but every now and then, I remember scaling the floors of our school with Geoffrey. It’s a memory that always stands out in my mind.

I have completely forgotten some of the students from that year. Others, I’d like to forget. And some, I remember fondly and miss terribly.


  1. Why do all school pictures look the same? ;)

    And sweaty hands reminded me of 6th grade when we did square dancing in gym. In many of those dances, partners twirl around each other, hands on each other's waist, and one boy had such sweaty hands (I didn't like him) that his hand left a stain on my skirt!

  2. Hi Shelly! I guess he liked you so much he had to leave his mark. :) The boy in my class would also leave hand prints but on his desk.

    And yes, all school pics look the same, no matter what grade, city or even country. I saw some recent class pics of kids who now go the same elementary school I did and nothing's changed!


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