Recently as I listened to a talk show host explain why the day before Christmas Eve is more emotional than the day of, my mind began to recreate a few of my own Yuletide memories. Soon visions of Santa and the presents he brought were dancing through my head – a delicious feeling even after all these years.
I can probably count on one hand the number of life situations capable of eliciting extraordinarily delectable feelings of joy. One such experience involved an unlikely item of clothing.
For most of our childhood years, Mother made sure we wore undershirts all winter long. At this point, I am not even sure 21st century kids would recognize an undergarment designed for warmth. I mean, in the 1990’s a couple of my guy students insisted on wearing shorts even in the dead of winter, and more than one teenage girl showed up in my classroom in flip flops – having slogged through the layer of winter precipitation covering the school parking lot.
But back to the annoying undershirts of my youth. They were not particularly scratchy, being made of cotton as they were. They were sleeveless, and Mother had us tuck them into our underpants – which eventually led to lots of bunching up. Still, they provided an extra layer of warmth against winter’s chill. Truth be told, the lowly undershirt was pretty innocuous.
There came, however, a huge celebration each year when sustained warm temperatures convinced Mother the time had come for us to shed our undershirts. Much like the subsequent scene on the first day of summer vacation when we were finally allowed to go barefoot, we whooped and hollered with glee at our freedom sans undershirts. A delicious feeling, to be sure!
Fast forward to May of my freshman year in high school. I recall another equally-divine feeling of pure relief totally unrelated to undershirts. My first year in secondary education was profoundly influenced by what took place in John Wilson’s Algebra I class.
I cannot adequately describe the fear and trembling with which I entered his classroom every day to anyone who never shuffled seats based on each round of recitation. And on Mondays Mr. Wilson reseated the whole class according to the scores on the previous Friday’s test: first row, first seat for the best grade down to the last seat in the last row for the kid with the worst grade. Despite the sheer terror of it all, I did love the challenge of solving equations.
To earn an A and to keep that A, I worked thousands of problems that year. My algebra book with the mottled blue cover was my constant companion, the only textbook I carried home every single night.
It was with one of the deepest senses of relief in my life – before or since – that I turned in my algebra book on the last day of school. I felt somehow lighter, as the book had almost attached itself as an additional body part. I must confess all these years later, however, Algebra I was one of my favorite classes, during which I learned more math than in the next three years combined.
For almost thirty years of my adult life, another completely gratifying sense of relief washed over me whenever the wheels of the airplane in which I was traveling touched down on the tarmac of an Ohio airport. The resulting jolt – whether slight or more pronounced – signaled an end to the massive responsibility I had endured for several weeks.
I spent almost a month each year escorting a group of my students to our German partner school. It was uber-tough to oversee the behavior, health, communication, and general well-being of a herd of adventuresome American teenagers so far from home. Suffice it to say that returning all that responsibility at the moment of touch down to their parents waiting inside the terminal was about as delicious a feeling as I can conjure up even to this very day.
There are also sometimes incredible feelings based on anticipation rather than relief. Come on now, is that not the point of Friday night or a snow day in February: a whole day or two stretching before us, hours and hours of time just hovering there, waiting to be filled with fun or lazed away? Alas, how quickly such times evaporate! But hey, it’s great while it lasts!
And such was the feeling of unfettered expectation on many an early summer morning on River Road. Walking in the sunshine to the accompaniment of humming insects and singing birds never failed to fill me with a delightful, unbounded sense of all that could happen in the hours to come.
And now I find myself – at this very moment on submission day – overcome by the anticipation of great relief about to descend upon me. With one tap of a computer key, this week’s column becomes the business of the UDC folks. Thankfully my mind will be released from the struggle to decide on just the right topic for the week, the search for appropriately clever phrasing, dozens of consultations with my online thesaurus, the quandary about punctuation and verb tenses, knowing when done is done. Keeping at bay the reality of next week’s replay of the whole process, I am nonetheless ready to revel in the deliciosity of this moment!
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.