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Salad Days

Just like a salad, my time at the lab school is a jumble of things... a leafy green memory here, some faded, and a thousand islands of impressions, visual and tactile moments, embarrassingly immature situations, elements of wistful romance, et al.

I could write a novel, I suppose about it all, and so could anyone, in a way, since all readers of novels recreate each novel afresh each time, and to anyone their life in school, k-12 is a powerful, personal saga, even though millions have lived through the apparently identical story, over and over.

Each identical story is unique, of course, and vividly so, from not being read, but lived. Even so, I think we will be forgiven if we all have a sense that a Lab School childhood was justifiably a bit more unique than some.

Some of it, for me, has the flavor if the 1950's, a time that delighted in conformity, revelled in sameness... And there are distinct sights and smells as well... The leather smell of a pommel horse on the ISTC campus. The oily earth of the Field house. The dry sawdust in the pole vault pit, approaching fast as you jumped from the second floor landing. The lower and lower basketball hoops in the SE corner of the fieldhouse, plus that odd ball of some kind, hanging on a string from a rafter in the ceiling...

Other incidents, other scenes persist:

-The Lettermen's initiation ritual of making pledges chew (but not swallow) raw garlic - the resultant stink prompting Miss Struble to make me sit it the hall for the entire Latin Class

- The fleeting moment of uncharacteristic intimacy as some girl who will never normally talk to you sits inches away as she applies makeup to your face, eyes, and lips before you go onstage for Ken Butzier's "Twelfth Night"

- The pile of football shoes showered on my older brother by upper classmen, delightfully cleaned and oiled by fourth and fifth Chip Mahon and I due to the resultant proximity to gridiron glory

- The wool basketball outfits left over from 1952 that my father let me wear, even though my legs were so small I could run in them without even ruffling the satin

- Dr. Moon singing "Little Rabbit in the Woods" in assemblies, miming each line and then dropping out lines so that an entire auditorium eventually looked like a closed caption chorus for the deaf

-Our sixth grade teacher, pausing mysteriously, more or less freezing, for as much as a minute, as her face got red, while the entire class stopped breathing, due to what could only in hindsight have been some kind of menopausal hotflash - something that none of us ever mentioned or even discussed, as I recall, until now

So many memories, but overall, the sense that somehow we were special, that we were the lucky ones, due, certainly to an indoor pool, a fieldhouse, and many skilled and memorable teachers with higher degrees, but also due to each other, the fact that we grew up together, year upon year, knew each other well, and that we were the children of aspirational parents, grad student's kids, professors kids, or at least people who made it a point to live "within the district"

For many school age kids, it seems that school is really the only thing happening in town. The presence of teaching adults and the pageantry of athletics and its news coverage all reinforce that thinking.

Now we know that is not really so, but as a microcosm of society, an education from the Lab School prepared one as a member of a certain sort of society within society, i.e.- a group of lifelong learners who both revel in and create knowledge.

It was a great place to start an interesting life. So, its still "Go Panthers" both little and later.


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