Many generations ago Sir Isaac Newton lounged in his mother’s garden and cogitated an apple’s tumble from treetop to terrain.

About the same fold of the calendar I was a student in the second grade of Haish Elementary School in the Midwest. 

Two contrasting events and both with intoxicating after-effects. Sir Isaac put a name to gravity. And became famous. But I learned to spell. P-l-a-n-t-a-t-i-o-n. Plantation.

In second grade I was no longer caged in the basement of the brick edifice that stood cater-corner to our home. Now every day I boldly marched up the worn staircase to the second grade classroom. No longer did I share space with the lowly kindergarteners and first graders. No more was I grouped on oval braided rugs or wedged into weensy chairs at tiny tables. Second graders boasted real desks: individual wooden desks with a commodious shelf and a hinged seat that could tilt up or down. At will. Amazing!

Second grade was the true genesis of my adulthood.

I learned to spell, read fluently, and comprehend that there was a big world out there just waiting to be discovered.

My very first library card came with a field trip to our town library, the first of those public institutions that have been so important throughout my days.

Now I could read about plantations, not just spell the word. And I did. I applied my curiosity so diligently to plantation life that later when a transplanted student from the Deep South brought in a cotton boll for sharing time I knew what it was and even had a tentative connection with Eli Whitney and his cotton gin—thanks to my association with the library and the fabulous card.

Students in the second grade at Haish Elementary had halcyon days Monday through Friday, every week. There were spelling bees, field trips, penmanship practices, reading and story times, and two hours of music in a week. We struggled with the beginnings of serious arithmetic. All accompanied by two daily recesses aimed at sweeping the cobwebs from our brains.

We had a whole year to cogitate, dream, fathom, and envisage. Our greatest growing went on in the classroom just off the central staircase—nothing else mattered. The days were satisfyingly full; they were busy and complete.

It was exciting, riveting, and magnificent.

It was totally legal.

I loved it and the life that has followed second grade.


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Image credit to DMF

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