My first grade school was Robert M. La Follette Elementary School in Milwaukee. During the summer before I started fifth grade, my family moved a mile west where we rented another flat – we always lived in the second floor flat – where I walked to Clarke Street School on 28 and Clarke Streets. I had to cross 27th Street, a busy thoroughfare on the North Side.
I made several good friends at Clarke Street School. One of my best friends – Frances (Peltz) Assa – and I re-connected several years ago; we had lost touch after the 6th grade. Through the years I had thought about Frances, and one of the joys made possible by the Internet has been our re-connection in our 60’s.
Now, though, I remember a day that was an important day in my life, one I often remember. In the summer after 6th grade, my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Hospel, invited me to spend a day with her at her home. I expect that only a few of us received that gift, although I don’t know for certain. I took the bus from 26 and Medford – where we lived in the big upper flat in the house second from the corner of Medford Avenue and Tamarack Street – to the East Side of Milwaukee, east of Humboldt Boulevard.
I now know that as a child, I identified with my teachers – unlike most children, who identify with their parents or those who’ve been their care-givers. The trip to spend the day with Mrs. Hospel would have been significant for me. I’m sure I was excited, although I don’t recall. The bus trip alone – a young girl, arriving on a city bus – would have been cause for excitement.
No one in my immediate family had been to college, and my childish ability to note these differences was important to me.
In my mind, I see the wall in one room of Mrs. Hospel’s home. Was it the living room? The dining room? I know we had lunch. Sometimes, I think I can almost remember what she served for our lunch together, but I do not remember. I see the wall, I see the framed pictures there. And when I see them, I realize – again, as I did as a child – that this house, this way of living was different than the way we lived, the way my family lived. I knew this, with a child’s knowing, a knowing I have not lost through the years.
At the end of our time together, Mrs. Hospel walked me to the corner of Humboldt Blvd. and Locust Streets, where we sat on a bench, waiting for the bus to take me home again. Just a few years later, I would wait on that same corner for the bus to take me home from the University. As we sat there, I remember talking to Mrs. Hospel, asking her questions about herself. I seemed to call on a part of myself – a larger, more adult part of myself – to have this conversation.
A good friend of mine – a retired school teacher – tells me that some-times she sees in children a part of them that is mostly hidden, but that rises to the surface in certain moments; as a teacher, mother and grandmother, she loves these moments. I think she was describing the Me I knew that day. Maybe this part of me was my True Self, that larger, indescribable Self that we have always known, that has been with us, is in us, birthing us – forever.
Sometimes, Facebook is a remarkable thing! A few years ago, Mrs. Hospel and I became Facebook friends. When she was my sixth-grade teacher, she was in her first year of teaching, and so, I expect, she is only 10 years older than I am. We’re both still young – and in the Wisdom Years…