Thursday, July 23, 2009
PUPPY LOVE AND AN AIRPLANE
I’ve been on a mission to get some files cleaned out. I’ve saved certain things for a very long time and it’s time to get rid of them. I am well aware that the minute something gets thrown away, fate will intervene and you’ll need it. Nevertheless, I’m on a much needed roll!
Yesterday I came upon a batch of old ephemera I acquired after my mother’s death in 1982. She’d saved pages from an old mimeographed elementary school student newspaper dated 1943 and 1944 but only the pages with my stories on them. The original pages are disintegrating into a pile of confetti in the bottom of the file cabinet, but at least in 1982 I had the foresight to make a photocopy of them. In the intervening years, because they were tucked so far back in the file cabinet drawer I’d quite forgotten about them.
The school was Frances E. Willard Elementary in Long Beach, California. I entered it toward the end of first grade and stayed there through fourth grade. I loved school and I still have vivid memories of my days at Willard.
While I was looking at the little newspaper, my eye stopped on a story about an airport.
When I read that I had a real flashback. After we got the airport up and running, we each made an airplane. Now I came from a family of females and building a little airplane just wasn’t in my experience. I remember being handed a chunk of balsa wood and some sandpaper; this was not to be a model airplane from a kit. We were to sand and chisel that block of wood until it looked exactly like the one our teacher (or perhaps her husband) made as an example. If all went well, it was eventually going to be a silver airplane. I had my doubts.
But when we started work on it, a cute little kid named Jerry Laposa came to my side and helped me through the process. I can remember him showing me how to use the sandpaper for shaping the fuselage. In thinking back on it I couldn’t remember exactly what kind of an airplane we were making. I thought maybe because we were in the middle of World War II we made a bomber. But then I saw another story on that same page written by one of my classmates, Russell Payne, and it said that we were making “clippers.”
Ahhhhh, I remember! A clipper. The wings on top. And then I remembered having to dig out a certain square of balsa wood on the top so the wings would lie flat across the fuselage like the wings of real clippers. And then I remembered Jerry Laposa helping me with a little chisel, too.
From that point on, I began getting a PowerPoint-like recollection of my time at Willard, and little Jerry was in all of them. I remember working with him on the Victory Garden. When we were studying Pueblo Indians I was the mother of the family, Blue Bird, and Jerry Laposa was White Eagle, the father. Later we studied a unit on the Post Office, including v-mail letters, and Jerry was the postmaster and I the patron.
By third grade Jerry and I considered ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. There was no handholding or smooching, but there was an inner knowledge that we were an item! By fourth grade Jerry Laposa and I were exchanging Christmas Gifts – he gave me a little vial of Eau de Cologne and I gave him a small faux-leather wallet. Our parents were enablers, driving me to deliver the gift to Jerry and his father bringing Jerry to my house, gift in hand. He appears in all my birthday party pictures, though I do not recall attending his. We never talked on the phone or saw each other outside of school except for those parties we were invited too. Definitely we exchanged Valentine’s day cards, and of course I made sure he got the best card out of the box of little cards my mother bought to be given to my classmates.
Times were different then, but puppy love was already in the air.
In the summer after my 4th grade year the war ended, my father bought a business and we moved across town to 1620 Gardenia, the first house my family ever owned. If I felt bad about leaving Jerry, I don’t remember. I was excited to be going to a new school in the fall, going into 5th grade, and I had high hopes for lots of new friends.
It is amazing what memories can be pulled out of a file cabinet. Things that had been stored in my own memory out of sight for 65 years today were pulled out just as easily as taking something out of a file drawer.