Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Still blooming after all these years

By Dick Hirsch
I’m frank to say that I am a late bloomer. I never realized that until one September a few years ago as they were tuning up the school buses for the new season and the papers were filled with ads for notebooks.
I’ll disclose more about my own blooming schedule later, but first I should explain that each year at this time, I suddenly detect a change in my attitude. I practice some annual wishful thinking about how nice it would be to be going back to school. If you have ever experienced that feeling, you will surely want to read on. If not, stay tuned anyway, because it’s my belief that a little reminiscence now and then may actually have positive physical and psychological benefits, resulting in lowering the blood pressure.
This sudden emphasis on recollection passes quickly, but it reoccurs with predictable regularity each September, and the intensity of the urge seems to be growing as the gap widens between the current calendar and the last time I was a student. The gap has now widened to the point where some might claim it qualifies as a chasm.
I’m not alone. I’ve discussed this sentiment with a variety of friends and colleagues, and many of them admit to a distinct feeling of melancholy as they see the fleets of school buses taking to the streets for the beginning of the new school year.
I never rode a yellow school bus to school. Yes, never. I’m a member of that declining demographic group for whom the school was within walking distance. The neighborhood school was the learning citadel in cities like Buffalo. It was only in faraway places like Cheektowaga or Hamburg that children were transported by bus.
I remember only four school bus field trips and I enjoyed each and every one because they were such a novelty. The rides took elementary school classes to Kleinhans Music Hall to hear a Buffalo Philharmonic rehearsal, to the Albright Art Gallery to look at a selected number of paintings and sculptures (no nudes on the itinerary), and to tours of the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society.
Those trips were designed to introduce eager students to the finer things in life, in the hope that they would return sometime in the future. That is the total of my school bus riding experience. I made no bus trips in high school or college, although certain teams traveled by school bus to compete in away games.
As I watch the bus drivers meandering along their new routes during these opening weeks, I think of the attitudes being expressed by most of those passengers on board. If history is any guide, very few of them will be willing to admit they’re actually glad the vacation is over and they’re happy to be returning to school. It was always standard to complain about the reopening of school, and I doubt that has changed.
So why do people like me get sentimental when the first bells ring? That’s an easy question. The wisdom that comes with age annually reminds us that we should have enjoyed our school days more than we did. That is the message that parents attempt to convey to their children, especially in September, but only a few of them ever seem to hear the message or believe it.
The message I often heard was first enunciated by Miss Hilda Ohlmer, with whom I became acquainted in 6th grade, and repeated by others over the next few years.
“Richard is not working up to his potential,” she told my parents.
That was probably the first time I heard the word “potential.” I doubt that I looked it up in the dictionary, but somebody must have explained it meant I could do better than I was doing, that my grades could be higher. I always wondered what made her---and the others---feel so certain of that because I was doing better than some and not as well as others.
Fifteen of the smartest kids in Buffalo were in my high school graduating class. I wasn’t one one of them. I never realized why until much, much later, and then came understanding. They blossomed early while years after I decided I must have been a late bloomer. In fact, I think I’m still blooming. Maybe I’m not, but as long as I think I am, that’s what is important, isn’t it?


Post a Comment

<< Home