She was thin, blond, and beautiful. When Mama left me in her care, I was enthralled with her, my very first teacher. Her name was Miss Tatz, and she was the lone teacher in the community building at Urbandale Lions Park, an overflow situation for the school district.
Even though it was sixty years ago, three events from her classroom are burned into my brain.
- We went on a field trip to A & E Dairy. We saw how milk was processed, bottled, and crated for delivery. At the end, we got to choose a tiny milk carton from a rack to drink, right then and there. I picked my milk and carried it to a seat. Then I saw that the kid next to me had chocolate milk.
I wanted chocolate milk! I took my white milk back to the chatting teacher and waited for her to look at me.
“What is it? You’re not thirsty? That’s okay,” she said, taking the milk away from me.
Now I had no milk. She hadn’t given me a chance to ask my question, which was could I trade it in for chocolate?
2. One afternoon, I got very involved with the picture that I was drawing. I made the sun shine from the corner so that I wouldn’t have to draw a perfect circle. I had flowers coming up from the bottom of the page. I drew our house, one and half stories. I drew my family, all five of us and one inside Mama, ready to be born. I forgot that I’d drunk a glass of juice with my graham crackers. I forgot that I had to go to the bathroom.
By the time I raised my hand to leave my seat, I was already in trouble. As soon as I stood up, I knew it would be a race to the finish line. The room was huge, the bathroom was far away, and I had five-year-old-long legs. I hurried but found myself in a puddle outside the bathroom door. I stood there, pee running down my bare legs (wearing a dress) and into my white anklet socks, wondering what to do.
Another kid ratted me out. Miss Tatz came over to where I was glued to the floor. I looked up at her beautiful face.
“What should I do?” I asked.
“Why don’t you take off your shirt and clean it up?” she barked.
What? No! Girls aren’t supposed to take off their shirts!
Miss Tatz walked over to a cupboard and got out some emergency underwear.
“Here, put these on!” she said, planting them firmly into my hands.
I went into the bathroom, where the week’s bar soap was blue and shaped like a bear. Its ears were already disappearing as it rested in the soupy soap dish. I dried myself off and went back to my seat.
3. On the day before the last day of school, Miss Tatz said everyone needed to turn in their workbooks before they left for the summer. Mine wasn’t done. I had spent a lot of time perfecting my numbers, letters, and coloring of the pages in the right way. I loved my workbook and hated to give it back.
“Can’t I keep it?” I asked her.
“No, it becomes part of your permanent file,” she said.
The next day, I was the last kid to go out for recess as I sat there finishing up my prized workbook. When I was done, I walked up to Miss Tatz’s desk and handed it over.
Good-bye, first book of mine, ever.
Miss Tatz took it from me and then turned around and dumped it into her oversized waste basket.
“Run along and play now,” she said as she got up to go sneak a cigarette behind the building (I imagine).
Oh, Miss Tatz, I think you might have been happier in another line of work.