Old Lady Vitamin Pill
When I was in the fifth grade at Pinehurst school, our classes were held in the Annex on the South side of the school. The annex was the newest building at the school. It contained 4 classrooms, a girls' bathroom and boys' bathroom. The fifth grade consisted of 3 classes, and the fourth room was used by the Jr. High.
My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Allman - who was referred to by the older kids as "Old Lady Vitamin Pill." Apparently a few years prior to my stint in grade 5, OLVP would give each of her students a "One-A-Day" vitamin pill each morning. Now this was in the days long before school offered breakfast to students from low-income families, and I imagine she was just doing her part to help the students to succeed in school. However, as an adult with grown children, it is "chilling" to think that a teacher, no matter what her intentions, could give each student a pill before class every day. Added to the fact that in those days, the schools employed full-time nurses who were able to administer drugs legally, the thought of a single teacher taking on the dispension of pills to kids is rather "bizarre."
However, by the time I was admitted to her class, the practice had stopped. There had been a law passed that made it illegal for anyone, including the nurse to dispense as much as an aspirin without parental permission. This was a great move, as parents who have abandoned the rearing of children to the state, did not forsake the responsibility to care for their children's health. (But I pontificate.)
Mrs. Allman was not an impressive teacher. She was old, very thin, pale, and dyed her stringy hair a dark brown. Her clothes were nondescript dresses of a matronly style and color. She seemed nice, and probably liked me, as most of my teachers did, but I don't remember anything distinctive about the class - except for learning the state capitals and the first paragraph of the Gettysburg address.
Perhaps it was because I was changing. My body was growing in new ways, and I was beginning to notice boys more. Not just one or two, but many nice looking young bucks. One sat behind me most of the year, who was quite nice looking, and may have liked the way I looked a bit also.
I had some screwy ideas about boys and how they thought about girls and the whole notion of sex - that I prefer not to mention here. Suffice to say, a friend of mine and I had concocted a whole explanation from bits and pieces we had heard and seen. It would be laughable, except that neither of us ever learned the truth about our "theory" until years later when other bits and pieces we learned contradicted what we first believed. Sad that our mothers lived in a time where what is natural had been deemed nasty - and they were never comfortable to speak of things to come.
However, there is another explanation for why I may not remember much of my fifth grade year: the "dizzy spells" as I called it. I started having strange sensations of acute self-awareness coupled with impending doom. In the course of the ordinary, I would suddenly feel disembodied, as though I was an observer as well as a participant in life. I could disassociate myself from me, and yet feel trapped in time and place with a heightened sense of needing to escape.
It was as if my mind belonged to a higher order of being, and didn't want to be trapped in a 10 yr. old body locked in that classroom at that time, studying insipid books. I became claustrophobic and terrified. I had to get out of there and fast! The only way I could cope was to put my head down. On more than one occasion, I would get down on my hands and knees, because I felt like I was going to pass out or die on the spot. Usually, I would end up going home, unless my Mom was working - which was most of the time, then I would be taken to the nurses office to lie down.
As soon as the strange feelings left, I felt stupid. My mom thought I was faking it. She took me to the doctor who said there was nothing physically wrong with me. (Physically there wasn't. . .but physiologically there was - I was having panic attacks.)
In those days, doctors didn't know about panic attacks. They might have suspected "mental illness" - but in all other ways, I was a normal kid. I didn't act out, didn't display anti-social behavior, in fact, I was a model child who tried to please my parents and teachers. There was no logical explanation at that time for my behavior. My mom thought it was a ruse and I thought I was dying.
Fortunately, I had a lot of ear infections that year also, and one of the doctors said I had some kind of allergy, as he found boils in my ears. As a result, he also said that it could be the cause of the "dizzy spells." This alleviated my mother's accusations that I was "faking it" and she apologized for not believing me. It calmed my fears, as I no longer believed that what was happening to me was fatal.
Regardless, all of this uproar, was a huge distraction my entire fifth grade year. No wonder I don't remember much about the classroom than the "dizzy spells."
Monday, May 28, 2007
Old Lady Vitamin Pill