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