RED BRICK SCHOOL

POWNALBOROUGH SCHOOL, A ONE-ROOM BRICK SCHOOLHOUSE

Wooden floors, freshly oiled

where this year’s thundering feet will tread.

Initials carved last semester now sanded down,

feature shining newly-varnished desktops.

Decades passe’ ink wells leave empty circles on desktops,

deep dark holes in history.

Rows of seats

on ornate wrought iron hinges painted shiny black,

fold down from the front of each desk,

waiting to become home to a new pupil of this grade, this year.

Unassuming pupils anticipating the unknown

with open minds.

One sole room filled with chatter

and chaotic action.

Collectively sharing accounts

of summer adventures,

discoveries, family stories,

whirling around like a mini tornado.

A modest sized box style woodstove

sports a new coat of blacking sits

as proudly as each student

cloaked in their freshly pressed school clothes

in their place in the school room.

Shiny silver pipe, laced with chicken wire

prohibits children from being burned,

provides a drying rack

for hanging winters’ wet mittens and hats.

Double blackboards,

one for each grade,

await todays lessons and reading instructions,

imparting wisdom scripted in new chalk by teacher, Mrs. Doris Souviney.

Top raised on an already old oak rolltop desk

presents “teacher necessities”

peeking from within mysterious cubbys and drawers.

Class roll, teaching aids and paperwork,

brass lunch bell, office supplies,

test papers and answer sheets,

collected and thoughtfully prepared

during summer “break” by a teacher who genuinely cares.

A woodshed chock full of wood,

spring cut, split and delivered.

Stacked on a hot summer day

by a charitable father, big brother or uncle.

Staving off another snowy cold Maine winter,

in conjunction with daily lessons,

warms two grades of students and a teacher

providing comfort in the little red brick schoolhouse.

Time out in the woodshed,

an opportunity to reflect on an offense!

Direct eye contact from Mrs. Souviney’s stern face

identified, often precipitated

a life changing moment,

despite the passive delivery.

No need for raising her voice,

no need for ruler slapping,

no rush to judgement of the offense,

….extremely effective disclipine!

A private moment with nature

rather than an assigned chore,

I stand rewarded

out in the gravel driveway of the schoolyard

feeling lucky to be banging out chalk dust

from felt erasers.

Wry smile crossing my face as I stand there,

looking upward at eagles soaring above Swan Island

against the blue, blue, blueness of the autumn sky.

Recess!

Pouring single file out the front door,

giggles, pinches and tickles shared

by classmates choosing teams

of who would be the swinger

and who would be the pusher,

all collectively breathing in

the crisp fall air

of the outdoors in Maine.

 Anxious to be the first on log pole swingsets,

strung with thick sturdy new rope that creaked

under the weight of students sitting

on smoothly sanded board seats,

kicking to ride as high as the clear blue sky

until someone else gets a turn.

Black-handled-brass bell rings out,

time for afternoon class roll call.

Mrs. Souviney needing to know

if everyone is accounted before

their return to the classroom.

Lunchtime!

Square metal lunchbox, painted in red- plaid

reveals inside a waxed paper-wrapped sandwich

of bologna, peanut butter or lunch spread.

Warm from sitting in a row all morning

with all the others on a shelf near the back window.

A pint of white milk

in a cardboard box.

A drink of cool water

from the stoneware crock,

spigot dripping over the oblong black sink

on the sideboard

in the back corner of the classroom.

No thoughts of lead or botulism or salmonella

or melamine hidden in products

imported from China or other countries

where the quality of life

is not so important as it is in the U.S.A.

Seeing but forever feeling safe,

taking for granted the significance of

the new American Flag

that hangs above the blackboard in front of both classes,

who recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.


Hand with forefinger raised

signifies a request  to visit the outhouse,

existing in an addition beyond the classroom.

Permission granted,

I raise from my seat to venture down the aisle,

under the silver stovepipe

wired to the ceiling,

at leaky intervals with coffee cans

catching dripping creosote.

Reaching the designated “girls” bathroom door,

opening the wooden panel door to reveal a short hallway

with yet another door.

Behind the second door a thigh-high shelf

provided two sizes of round holes,

one large and one small.

Strategically placing myself over the selected size,

I reach for a roll of courtesy paper

hanging from the side wall

and finish my business

to quickly return to afternoon class as quickly as I can

so I don’t miss anything I should be learning.

Mrs. Doris Souviney!

A gifted lady with the ability

to settle down

25 or more unassuming pre-teens

solely with her direct eye contact,

simultaneously helping each

feel they had the advantage of a private tutor.

Feeling as though a favorite aunt

was sharing a personal moment with only them.

Her seemingly psychic abilities impressed me!

Whenever one was having a difficult day

(or perhaps several in a row),

the courtesy of a discreet private chat

determined whatever the concern.

To have felt the “warm blanket of love”

without so much as a fleeting physical touch.

A subtle suggestion

insured a pivotal moment

in so many

impressionable lives.

Thank you Mrs. Souviney for helping us all prepare for life!!!!!

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