It’s working: Sarah’s question about choir brought up the vivid image of “Reiko” (spelling approximate), the young Japanese accompanist who played for the children’s choir at Dickeyville Presbyterian. More accurately, what I see in my mind’s eye is a photograph I know exists in some Lippman scrapbook, of Reiko with a paper plate of cake balanced on her lap. Her going-away party, perhaps? It was a warm day, spring or summer, and I remember being happy. Because there was cake and punch, of course, but also because the day was somehow stress-free.
Childhood was enormously stressful, much more so than adulthood in some ways. Because we lived in a remote neighborhood, I was not one of today’s over-subscribed children, being ferried to various activities. (The lack of a neighborhood Brownie troop was one of the profound disappointments of my youth.) I took art classes at the BMA, but that was about it. Still, there was a bus to catch (in grades 1, 7-9) and a girl named Portia who decided that she was going to beat the crap out of me, and Algebra II, and gym, and gym uniforms, to name just a few things that made me mental, to use the Baltimore parlance of the day. (Other key local terms — “fish-heads,” which denoted any sneakers that were not Jack Purcells or Converse, and “tight-face,” the taunt used when one had been snappily humiliated by a peer. “Tight. Tight-face. Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.” I can see Elmer doing it now. Yes, Elmer, the clown prince of Dickey Hill Elementary and Rock Glen Junion High. Did any of my classmates have normal names? Most, in fact. But I remember Cherby and Quintana and Tawna. More on Tawna and Cherby later.)
The Baltimore City gym uniform, circa 1971-1975, was a one piece, dark-blue affair with elastic at the legs and snap buttons up the front. We were required to embroider our last names across the front in white cross-stitch. Unflattering, ill-fitting and not particularly functional either, as the snaps yielded easily.
So, follow the thread: Memories of gym? Memories of taunts? Memories of taunts in gym?