For two weeks, I have felt drawn to things in pairs, beginning with the Kentucky Derby. A casual horseracing fan at best, I nonetheless enjoy observing the excitement of American traditions such as the Run for the Roses.
The Derby shares a clear similarity with other highly-anticipated athletic contests: the length of event coverage compared to the actual length of said event, which happened to be five hours of reporting for a two-minute race.
Tuning in just thirty minutes before the “Riders Up!” command for the sole purpose of looking at the ladies’ hats and hearing “My Old Kentucky Home,” I noticed in every crowd shot at least half the spectators staring at their cellphones. Why ignore all that pageantry and those beautiful thoroughbreds just to read some text?
As always, my real obsession was with the horses’ names. The winner had a single name: Justify, making him, in my mind, a strong candidate for the Triple Crown. Most of those splendid victors were known by one name – Whirlaway, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, and Affirmed. My favorite names from this year were Promises Fulfilled and Instilled Regard, such poetic and idealistic designations.
I discovered the second sports competition when I happened upon a PBA bowling show. Compared to the televised tournaments I watched as a kid, the only similarities were the pins and the bowling balls.
Back then, two men competed against one another, each clad in a casual white shirt. Spectators sitting in the stands applauded politely, while a disembodied hand kept score with a dark marker on a paper sheet.
That was not at all what I saw the other day on my TV screen. First, I noticed the ball delivery of one of the bowlers, who threw it with both hands, reminding me of how little kids often send a ball down the alley. And that bowler’s appearance also piqued my interest; his hair style, his expression, the scarf at his neck reminded me of any number of young European men I had seen riding the subway or exiting local pubs.
Turns out, the bowler hails from Sweden. Jesper Svensson belongs to the PBA, competes in Europe, and has won awards all over the place. His team, the Atom Splitters, defeated the Hitmen to win the Elias Cup tournament I ended up watching.
It was a noisy, colorful, flashy affair. The crowd stood the entire time, chanting and cheering. Team members in bright shirts covered with advertising logos never sat, crowding instead around whatever teammate was “up.” By the way, Svensson’s unorthodox delivery has an official name: the two-handed shovel style delivery. Who knew?
Then I doubled up on holidays. Election Day also happened to be Teacher Appreciation Day, celebrated for so many people dear to my heart. I remembered the wonderful teachers I had so long ago, the wonderful teachers I taught with through the years, and the wonderful former students who became wonderful teachers. And I count into all that wonderfulness the secretaries, aides, coaches, homeschooling parents, organization advisers – every person whose presence positively impacts young people should be celebrated on that day.
Shortly thereafter came the second holiday, Mother’s Day, which is a bittersweet Sunday for those of us who have lost our moms. I miss my mother every single day and regret that I did not let her know often enough how special and important she was to me.
I merged the two holidays in my mind because I believe mothers are our first and best teachers. Without lesson plans or a gradebook, my mom taught me to love reading, to knit, to cast out nines, to measure ingredients, to sew… And what she did not “teach” me, I learned by simply watching her. For sure, she was my first and best teacher.
Finally, in two weeks I have read two books worth mentioning for different reasons. I give my highest recommendation for We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. The novel follows a Polish-Jewish family from just before the outbreak of World War II until several years after.
The book represents my favorite genre, that of historical fiction. For me, it is important to understand how events of a particular era impacted the people experiencing them. From this novel, I understand much more clearly the effects of the Nazi takeover of Poland, the alliance of Germany and Russia as well as the collapse of that alliance, and the aftermath of the war as survivors walked home and/or spent time in displaced persons camps while the Red Cross worked to reunite families.
My only criticism was that the author’s imagination made the many escapes and close calls seem much too coincidental. And then I read Hunter’s comments and learned the entire book was based on her grandfather’s family and their experiences. It is a great read.
I did not become quite as involved in The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer, but she expressed a thought that captures an aspect of my weekly columns: “…I remember my memory of the moment, because after so long that’s what memory is: the replaying of filmstrip that’s slightly warped from having gone through the projector so many times. I’ll never know what actually happened and what distortions I added.”
Until next time, when it will be my pleasure to share more warped and distorted memories of my life as a Boomer…
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.