Today’s writing prompt is “I don’t remember,” an opportunity to dig deep into your empty space, reach a hand into the dark attic of your soul to see what you bring forth. “Bring to light things that have been covered up for a long time and they snap and crackle.” (Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away) It’s an exercise in putting it all out for the world to see, no matter who gets mad or hurt. To be honest with yourself.
I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I might have more than a bit of willingness to peek in dark corner and dank basements. Carl Jung talked about the black bag we all carry around with us, in which we stuff the things we’d rather not look at. I’m all for dragging that sucker out into the middle of the yard and slicing it open. No worries there. I’ll talk about most anything, even those things that paint me in the ugliest light.
But it got me to thinking and I came up with this: I don’t remember the second grade. Seriously. I remember the summer before. I remember Dolores Hayner stopping by to tell me we would have Mrs. ____________ as our teacher. (There’s a blank there not because I don’t want to name the teacher, but because I can’t. I have the picture here in front of me and I’m drawing an absolute blank. She has short dark hair. Black horn-rim cat’s eyes glasses. She’s not particularly attractive.)
I flip the picture over. In my eight year old scrawl is the names of most of my classmates, many of whom I remember to this day with crystal clarity. But not the teacher. I declined to name her, when every other grade school group shot I possess has the teacher’s name included.
Why? What happened that year?
Kindergarten: spilling my milk and being yelled at by Mrs. Davenport; laying down for “nap time.”
First Grade: Mrs. Kirkpatrick, a wonderful woman; drawing a picture of my father driving a car, the other kids laughing because he was bald (well, he was); Mrs. Goggins bringing tomato soup on Fridays.
Third Grade: Mrs. Hermann’s wonderful class, which I’ve written about before.
Fourth Grade: The dreaded, hateful year of Mrs. Ashe. I cried every morning, begging my mother to not send me to school. Neither of my parents ever bothered to take it up with the principle (that would have taken effort).
Fifth Grade: Mrs. Zaluki. God, I loved her. She was pretty and nice. She only ever spoke sternly to me once, when I spoke out of turn during story time (it was a book about lions and I LOVED lions). This was the year I had my first serious crush, on Bobby George. For awhile, he even liked me back.
Sixth Grade: Mrs. Dingee (horrible name, lovely woman). They readied us for high school by having us switch classrooms for three of our studies — science, english and math. My second big crush, this time on Ken Murray.
But Second Grade? Nothing. I look at this page of faces and it’s like that year happened to someone else. Why don’t I have a single recollection of that time? Nine months, erased from my memory.
This is when I long for Jung’s black bag and a pair of very sharp shears. I want to pierce that curtain, rip it aside, and see what’s behind it, even if it’s awful. Because I just don’t know. And until I do, that hole will remain.