Recently, my wife, the Fabulous Miss Kitty, was talking about coating some ornaments in Mod Podge, anticipating hanging the items in the trees. If you’ve never been in my backyard, I should explain that in addition to a lovely garden and a bitchin’ deck, the trees are filled with small shiny things of all types. She has, over time, become a total Ann Arbor hippie chick, something I love to tease her about, though she accepts that description with pride. I hadn’t heard the term ‘Mod Podge’ (a sealer for porous art projects) in many years. It put me in the mind of another hippie chick from another time…
When I was in the fourth grade, I was blessed with a young, enthusiastic teacher named Miss Skeba. She had auburn curls that didn’t quite reach her shoulders and a spray of freckles across her nose, making her look even more youthful when she turned her lively, patient eyes your way. If you had a cool teenage sister in 1973, she would’ve been dressed like my teacher.
She wasn’t just someone I remember because she wasn’t an ancient crone, which would accurately describe my teachers up to that point (I believe my first grade assignments were scratched into a cave wall). She saved me from a playground bully once. Noticing that I had an interest in writing, she let me write the two-paragraph blurb our class submitted to the school newsletter. When I wrote my first song, she let me make copies and teach the class the tune. I still remember the exhilaration I felt when we had the sing-along (though that may have been the dizzying ‘ditto’ fluid going to my head). Do not look for my musical tribute to Snoopy on my ‘Greatest Hits’ album.
Then came the day that she announced we were having a guest in our class. She seemed really excited about it. And then I found out why.
In the afternoon, she introduced us to a fellow named Mike, announcing “We’re going to get married!” I remember him as kind of a beefy fellow who sat quietly on the back counter of the classroom, watching her do her job with a goofy grin on his face…you know, the kind of grin you have when you’re totally smitten. I don’t know what Miss Skeba talked about that afternoon. I couldn’t do anything but stare at this interloper, this punk, Mike.
Eventually he left, to my great relief. Several of the girls in the classroom immediately rushed over to Miss Skeba to gush about how handsome he was and how excited they were for her to get married. Then, my mouth opened, independent of my brain, blurting out, “Well, I don’t like him.”
I had no idea those words were coming out. Just like I had no idea that, as a half-grown man of nine, I had designs on my teacher. I didn’t want her to marry that man. I wanted her to be Mrs. Miss Skeba Holland.
She turned to me and asked, “Why, Marc?” It was years later when I puzzled out what her face was saying at that moment. She was mostly amused and a little bit flattered. I had no answer, grumbling and offering no coherent response to her question.
It’s been forty-four years now. I think I’m over it. I’m very grateful that time added some Mod Podge to those childhood memories, keeping them from degrading over time. I have no reason to complain…I was lucky enough to marry my very own curly-headed hippie chick, right? After all of these years, I hope Miss Skeba has had a nice marriage and a fulfilling life.
And in case you were wondering, I also extend those well wishes to that worthless bastard Mike.