It was just that kind of weekend. The Bengals lost to the Steelers again, simultaneously losing another playoff game. Winter started – well, it snowed. And I wore out my finger pushing the mute button on my remote control whenever the politicians spewed and babbled. It is no wonder that my mind veered randomly from topic to topic and beyond, but maybe I can do some mental decluttering if I share…
~ It really did have to snow. For most of December I felt a little off kilter: people were mowing their lawns, and the occasional spring flower popped up. Stores could not sell winter coats, and a white Christmas was out of the question. The unseasonably warm weather continued into January, just as the TV shopping channels trotted out their spring apparel and gardening supplies.
Snow finally blanketed the landscape, schools were delayed, cars slid into ditches – and all seemed right with the world again. Soon after the first two inches of white stuff fell a young man half my age opined that when people discuss snow, they always discount current accumulations by recalling much worse storms of the past. Let me prove the validity of his observation.
In January of 1977 the snow just kept falling and temperatures plunged to minus 25 degrees, not counting the wind chill factor. And I was crushed; for the first time in my career I had my semester exams ready early, and then the entire exam schedule was canceled. School was closed for 18 days that year.
And then came the blizzard of 1978. I thought the roads were worse the previous year, but I did have to clear out my driveway so many times that I ran out of room for freshly-shoveled snow. School was closed for 15 days. The kids really missed out on subject matter in those back-to-back snowy years; several times I had to teach German 1 skills to my German 2 students. By the way, in line with the aforementioned theory – my father always maintained that the blizzard in November of 1950 was worse.
~ The college football season is finally over – just in time for the run-up to basketball’s March Madness. Although the Bengals found a new way to dismiss themselves, the play-offs for Super Bowl 50 continue.
Those endless rounds of play-off games in professional sports drive me to distraction. When I was a kid, all the American League pennant winner had to do was play no more than seven games against the National League pennant winner to determine the World Series victor. These days MLB, NHL, and NBA teams thread themselves through scads of play-off contests enroute to the championship series played in weather not even remotely matching the rest of the season.
With the Bengals out of contention, I am waiting for WLW radio personalities to start mentioning that pitchers and catchers will report for spring training on February 18 and that opening day is just sixty some days away. I am a very casual Reds fan, but at least I recognize most of the names on the roster. That may not be the case this year, what with management trading away player after player.
~ The current Powerball jackpot makes long-ago game show winnings of $64,000 or even a million dollars from Regis seem like mere pocket change. But, then, I do not watch Jeopardy! for the money, only for personal satisfaction. So I was proud of myself the other night when I correctly answered a Final Jeopardy question, although there was much more.
The category was “Americana,” and the answer referred to the poem from which this line came: “But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.” Immediately I shouted, “Casey at Bat” – although the correct title is “Casey at the Bat.”
I did not hear the winning scores; I was on my Kindle searching for Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s classic poem. And suddenly I was no longer a retired teacher huddled under her blanket on a snowy winter night. I had been transported back to the fifth grade classroom at Concord on an early spring day warm enough to have the windows open to a slight breeze.
Our strict but beloved Mrs. Panannen had left before the end of the school year to accompany her minister husband to his new church assignment. It was difficult to accept her replacement, Mrs. Zimmerman, because – because she was not Mrs. Panannen.
We muddled along until that early spring day when Mrs. Zimmerman chose to read Thayer’s poem. The sing-song quality of the ballad makes it one of those poems best enjoyed when heard, and I clearly remember Mrs. Zimmerman’s rendition: from “The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day…” to “there was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place” with the crowd’s reaction “ten thousand eyes were on him…five thousand tongues applauded…”
This decidedly non-athletic school girl with only passing knowledge of America’s pastime listened with rapt attention; and, despite the antiquated phrases of the 1888 poem, she visualized the final, heart-stopping scene: “And, somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout…/But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”
There, I have decluttered at least one section of my brain. Unfortunately, the next ten months of campaign clamor are sure to fill it right back up again!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.