I was expelled in the third grade. Yup. That teacher came up to me with the Principal by her side (Sister Christopher) and the “good” sister took one look at me and asked If I had written the note that was found in my desk when my row was called away to the restroom and I had to confess, yes sister, I did. I didn’t realize that the desk was searched regularly, or what a sneaky yahoo that Teacher was. Why would anyone hate a child that much? The woman was stone cold NUTS. Mrs. Millard, what a witch. To this day I have no Idea why she was like that to me. Even the other kids in the class, looked away when she’d call on me and humiliate me repeatedly. They knew…It was the target practice. Period. There’s the favorite, and there’s the target. Such is life. They just don’t expect you to write about it years later, or to name Names…Mrs. Millard, St. Rose Elementary, 3rd Grade, 1963. Insanity, expel a 8 year old.
God knows what was in the note. I just remember the tone, I’d written I wished any number of horrible things to happen to my 3rd grade Teacher. She was a frustrated crabby teacher that targeted me in the third grade and then if that wasn’t enough on Sundays she ratted me out to my Grandmother Spellacy at St. Luke’s Church. So going to Grandma Spellacy’s every Sunday also became a torture.
Back to Sister Christopher and her toady Teacher…”Well, you are expelled from this school. Take the books, your parents paid for them and leave and don’t come back.” So this brave Nun and her accomplice took on a eight year old ( I was the youngest in my class whole other story), and sent me packing. Luckily I had been raised by a Woman who took no guff from anybody in clerical robes. So I knew I couldn’t let them see me cry. I gathered up my books and walked out. And started home. Now I knew you could still see the church from the railroad tracks on West 114th, and as I was determined not to let that damn nun or that scabby teacher see me cry. I kept my composure till the tracks. Then all hell broke loose. By the time I got home I was hysterical…my Mother literally had to smack me to get me to stop crying and breathe and tell her what was wrong.
I thought how ashamed my parents would be…I would be a child without a country, my entire family , the whole neighborhood attended St. Rose Elementary. If you didn’t go there where could you go? A childs world is a pretty tiny place and that world was turned updside down. The entire neighborhood was aghast when somebody got bad grades or failed back…but to be expelled, now there’s a first in our neighborhood!!! All because of writing a note in the third grade. Cripes I wish I could remember what it said, it must have been phenomenal for a 8 year old. I come from a large Irish Catholic family so at that time there were 5 of us attending St. Rose’s Elementary School, 2 of us at St. Joseph’s Academy and one had just left the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent and was attending St. John’s College in downtown Cleveland. So it’s not like everybody didn’t know everybody. In 1963 Cleveland’s West Side Irish was a very tiny Planet. And I’d just been ejected, or at least I thought so.
But then came my Mom. Born and raised Protestant, from good Yankee Stock, she took no lies or prisoners.
She told me relax, take a few breathes and don’t worry about this. And off she went to the Convent. I doubt the good Sisters ever knew what hit them. I just like to imagine my tiny but very verbal and eloquent Mommy taking that Convent apart brick by brick. When she came home she told me “You have a week’s vacation, after that you can go wherever you want to go to. You can go back to St. Rose’s and your old class or you can go back to St. Rose’s to the other 3rd grade, or you can go to Fruitland, the public elementary school. But everythings OK. Don’t worry just take your time and think about were you’d like to go.”
What a lady, what a great Mom. And forever after I always knew she had my back. She’s been gone over 20 years now and even as I write this I can’t believe it because I still see her there, Tiny and fierce fighting and believing in me, and if this lady believed in you, why you could conquer the stars themselves.