Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"Teacher, Teacher..."

You have to understand.

I attended the Toronto Hebrew Day School. And beyond Nursery School, Kindergarten, First Grade – all of the female teachers there

Were old.

I don’t mean old like, I’m eight, so thirty seems old. I mean, chronologically, gray headedly and arthritically

Old.

Retired from Public School and could only get jobs teaching at a Jewish parochial school

Old.

Used phrases like, “Paddle your own canoe”

Old.

Wore those black, orthopedic shoes no woman would be caught dead wearing, unless their feet were killing them from standing in classrooms for fifty years

Old.

World War I was, to them, “Our War”

Old.

I’m telling you,

These women were old!

So when I graduated from Toronto Hebrew Day School and joined the Public School system, attending Ninth Grade at Ledbury Park Junior High School, and I beheld female teachers who, by comparison with what I was used to, looked like cheerleaders,

I was shocked.

And, since I was thirteen,

A little excited.

Especially when I caught a glimpse of my Ninth Grade “Home Room” and “Beginning French” teacher,

Miss Lloyd.

It was Natalie Wood. Teaching at a suburban Junior High School in Toronto. Better than Natalie Wood. She spoke impeccable French. And we were in the same room!

Every male person for whom women are of interest has a certain physical type they’re reflexively drawn to. To be honest, Miss Lloyd was not mine. But her exquisiteness was such that whatever’s in charge of these things in my body made a one-time-only exception.

I am not particularly gifted at description. And rendering female physicality leaves me cowering with discomfort. Dark hair. Finely featured. Strikingly beautiful. And we’ll leave it at that.

From the beginning, I intuited a connection between us, though evidence thereof was entirely nonexistent. Miss Lloyd would call on me, but no more frequently than she called on anyone else. I would raise my hand for a question, and her replies were helpful, but nothing more. There was never a single indication of favoritism.

And yet I sensed something there.

In those days, the punishments meted out came in the form of early morning detentions. These detentions were particularly onerous in the winter. When I lef a the usual time, I’d get a ride to school, chauffeured by a rotating carpool of parents, before they headed off to work. Early detention meant no ride, but, instead, a half-hour walk. Not infrequently, in a blizzard.

Did I deliberately misbehave, earning multiple detentions that would maximize our alone time? Was there premeditation behind my speaking without raising my hand? My shooting paper airplanes across the room? My letting fly those little rubber bands that tightened the tension between my top teeth braces and my bottoms?

I will tell you just this. The records will show I received not a single detention from any other teacher.

Only Miss Lloyd.

There we were, sitting quietly in the classroom, Miss Lloyd behind her desk polishing her lesson plan, and me behind mine. Smiling. Which can be excruciating, when you’re wearing really tight braces.

What did I think would happen? Nothing. My fantasies were in check. My boldest hopes were for an acknowledgement. The possibility that, for one tiny, conventions-shattering moment, Miss Lloyd would gracefully lift her head, look down from her big desk to me at my little desk,

And giggle.

It did not happen.

Flash Forward.

I’m in my mid-twenties. I am writing a weekly column in the Toronto Telegram. Giving no explanation, the paper’s editor suggested that I use a “pen name.” I chose Percy Needs, for reasons that do not matter here. After a year, however, I jettisoned Neeps and became Pomerantz.

The phone rings in my apartment.

“Hello?”

“Hello. Are you the Earl Pomerantz who writes a column in the Telegram?”

“I am.”

“Did you once attend Ledbury Park Junior High School?”

“I did.”

“Well, I saw your name in the paper, and I thought I would give you a call. You may not remember me. I’m married now, but my name before I was married was Lloyd. I believe I was your French teacher.”

There is no way I could recreate a moment of that phone call. I recall it only as tingly. Followed by a feeling that electrified me when I hung up the phone.

I was right.

6 comments:

Neal... said...

Fantastic story. Imagine if you could go back and tell your 13-year-old self about that call.

He wouldn't have been able to stand up from his desk for a week.

diane said...

I loved this story. This, in my humble opinion, is what makes reading your blog such a joy. You can make a simple story magical. Thank you for sharing.

Mac said...

That's a hell of a story. Would it have been better to know at the time? Probably not - it might have blown your 13 year-old mind. Maybe better to not know and let your imagination run riot. Either way, how amazing to find out all these years later.

Bruce said...

Wonderful story yet again. But would she have remembered you if not for all those detentions?

WALDO'S CORNER said...

Great story Earl, do u remember the Song u played on the piano Uncle Max ?? I still remember it that was funny
Take care cousin
nathan w

Zaraya said...

Mr. Pomerantz; thirteen to fifteen is, um, difficult for nearly every male anywhere. If you hadn't noticed a teacher in your private school eventually you'd had noticed someone else you saw regularly. Glad you were right in the end.