In first grade, I was conscious of the fact that my teacher lived right next door and was not, therefore, only my teacher, but also my mother's good friend. I remember not being able to quite figure that out—that a teacher wasn’t just a teacher who lived in the school and had no other life. It seemed, somehow, that in her I actually had to recognize two different women.
I remember meeting a student in a mall in Phoenix one afternoon, something, oddly enough, that rarely happened when I taught in an urban setting. I'll never forget his slack-jawed shock. "Mr. Schaap," he said, almost aghast, "what are you doing here?"
In his mind, I suppose, I had become a function of my function. He likely figured I shrunk into something out of Gulliver at night and slept comfortably in the gutter of the blackboard or maybe amid the pens in junk drawer of the desk up front. Maybe the school gave out sleeping bags. It was a chore for him to think of me as human, I guess, and not just, well, Mr. Schaap his teacher.
In 1955, I was only in the first grade, but I remember being somewhat confused by the reality of multiple personaes--the woman I recognized in front of the classroom, and another who laughed a ton and sat around the dining room table with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Otherwise, there’s no single memory of what I learned or what we did in first grade, save one.
The boy who sat in front of me, Ivan, a rambunctious kid, maybe somewhat out of control but only slightly, perhaps embarrassingly so for a sweet little boy like myself, reached back over his head one morning and laid an arm or two on my desk. I grabbed it/them. Nothing frightful or at all too disruptive that I remember. To this day I have no idea what classroom code he/we broke, but Miss Sneider blew a gasket. "Both of you," she said, angrily, "out in the hall."
Neither of us had a clue what “out in the hall” meant--good night! we were first-graders. But we dutifully left the classroom, sure somehow that we’d sinned horribly—after all, this was a Christian school. We didn't know exactly what it was we'd done, but we knew dang well we shouldn't have done it.
But going "out into the hall" seemed to us a strange thing for her to order up. After all, being outside the class wasn't exactly painful. Besides, Ivan said he had some food in his lunch pail, so there we sat on the floor beside our winter boots and ate Twinkies. Wasn’t all bad. Not at all.
My very first run-in with the law ended with Twinkies. I loved 'em. Still do.
Isn’t it amazing, what sticks?