Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Sunday, August 14, 2011

School daze

With all the "remember whens" going around these days and despite my own seriously spotty memory, I’m prompted to write something about my formative years. It can’t be helped. I attended the same small school for twelve years and had the same friends—meaning the entire class of 46 (more or less) kids. Sure, I had best friends and worst friends and even a few enemies along the way; but attending a small school like that has no equal, and some memories just don't fade. 

Don’t get me wrong: for the most part, I loved it.  But I also hated it at times. When a certain tattle-tale incident got the better of me, kids began calling me Bonnie B. (You can guess what the “B” stood for.)  The nickname spread like wildfire.

Okay. You deserve the whole story. From my sixth-grade point of view, Mrs. Woodmency walked on water. She praised us when we did well, she rewarded the perfect spellers—including me—with ice cream every Friday, she provided cows’ eyes to dissect. The best teacher in the world.

Science class began innocently enough. Warning us to be careful, my sweet teacher passed out cows’ eyes and scalpels and provided instructions on how to proceed. She walked around the room to make sure we followed directions. 

Teachers wore dresses back then. Always. Often, the dresses had full skirts. As she swished by my desk, her sudden yelp of pain caught my attention, and I looked down.  A scalpel stuck out of her ankle! The blood gushed from her wound; but I’ll never know who nursed her because, of course, it was all about me, me, me. What stands out, instead, is the memory that I cried and someone told me not to worry because I hadn’t meant to do it. Until that comment, it hadn’t sunk in that the scalpel belonged to me.

I do remember clearly what happened the next day. Mrs. Woodmency, on crutches, asked me to monitor the cafeteria line for the next week because she couldn’t. Dennis Light began acting like his usual ornery self in line, and I tattled as a by-product of my guilt complex. This didn’t go unnoticed.

The day after brought a comment from a friend: “I was taking a survey and everyone says you shouldn’t have told.”  Gee, thanks. Now you tell me.

When the boys started calling me Bonnie B, I had no idea how to respond. For a few days, I remained clueless as to its meaning. When I found out, it was no small deal.  I was crushed . . . even more so when I returned the next year and the name still stuck like discarded gum to the sole of a shoe. 

But don’t worry. This story has a happy ending. Sure, some people still called me Bonnie B at my fortieth reunion, but most others dropped the “B” by graduation.


  1. Oh wow, what a story! Did her skirt swoosh the scalpel off your desk and into her leg? Crazy stuff.
    I hate those stupid nicknames. I'm glad you made peace with yours.

  2. Hi, Deana! Yes, but my knife shouldn't have been so close to the edge of my desk. Poor Mrs. W!

    Although I initially hated the nickname, it gradually lost its meaning and its sting. It even developed a certain ring. :-) The few remaining boys who called me Bonnie B just did so out of habit.