Second grade was a very special year for me. It was in second grade that we really started developing close friendships and telling secrets. It was exciting to know something about you that your parents didn’t know.
Like falling into the swamp on the way to school. That was the day my second grade teacher, Ms. Bjorklund, became my hero. She never told anyone what happened. He could have taken us to the principal and betrayed us on our parents, but he didn’t. I thought she was wonderful, she was one of us.
It was a warm Friday afternoon in May. The twenty-second grade students were all fidgeting at their desks, nervously glancing at the clock. Ms. Bjorklund always made us sing after 3:00 on Fridays. She was not foolish enough to try to teach little children who are anxiously looking at the long hand of the clock, to pass the minutes. There are only thirty minutes left.
We were singing my favorite second grade song “Carmelita.” It said “Oh sing your song Carmelita, please Carmelita, please sing your song for me. It won’t take long Carmelita, please Carmelita, please sing your song for me. And the donkey advanced happily, he walks with a joyous clip “. clop “That was a great song, I especially loved the clip clop part.
Ms. Bjorklund was leading us in song when Mr. Katon poked his head around the door. He was our director. He was a very good man. He stuck his head out to wish us a good weekend every Friday. He was friendly, he had a big smile and I think he was very tall. I think he was tall, I don’t know because I was seven years old, they all seemed tall to me.
He gave us a smile as we sang and went to close the door but it slammed shut. We had the windows open so the air pressure would catch him off guard. However, it was okay, we didn’t miss a beat singing.
As the minutes passed, we were all nervous and excited. When growing up on Lake Superior, warm spring days are a big deal. In fact, you can run and play without worrying about the cold. The weather was perfect for games of hopscotch or Chinese rope. We loved playing those games when we were kids. Those were the video games of my youth. You couldn’t do it on the inside or alone.
So it was 3:25, Mrs. Bjorklund gave us the go-ahead to put our books away and put our desks in order so they were neat and tidy by Monday. We were all excited. We couldn’t wait to be released. It was like opening a ranch door when all the cattle are running like crazy.
Another great thing about second grade, there is no homework. Our task was to help around the house. Cleaning the chandelier with my older sister or sweeping. It was too small to vacuum.
Finally, the last ten seconds. I watch the forced movement of the long hand of the watch as it ticks off the seconds. Then the bell rang. Thank goodness we all stood up and went to the door.
Why didn’t the door open? I heard someone say that the door was stuck. We were all hanging around and some of the kids started to look worried. Ms. Bjorklund came to see what was going on, told us to go back so he could open the door.
He turned the knob, nothing happened. Then he pushed open the door. Nothing happened. He shook the door, nothing happened.
The children were getting more and more upset. A child, the director’s son, was crying. He said he would be late for a date with Kerri T. I know we were only seven years old, but we were very sophisticated. He was going to meet her on the slide and they were going to play on the merry-go-round. Very sophisticated.
Ms. Bjorklund returned to the front of the room and sat down at his desk. She was thinking of a way to save us. We all sat back in our seats, staring at her. We knew she could think of something, she was an adult. She could save us.
She had a thought. We all wrote notes and tucked them under the door. Someone would see the notes, pick them up, and save us.
So we write notes feverishly, asking for help. We were trapped and we needed help. We were a bit dramatic. I mean, we were on the first floor, tons of windows, and we had running water. Wait, we didn’t have a bathroom. Now that’s a problem. We were only seven years old, we didn’t have much time before someone had to leave.
So we stuffed the notes under the door and went out into the hall and waited. We waited and waited, but no one came. That got us thinking. Who were we waiting for? The bell had rung 10 minutes ago on a warm Friday afternoon. The buses were gone and it seemed like everyone else had gone too.
A couple more kids were starting to cry and the rest of us were getting anxious. We had been waiting all week for Friday night and they allowed us to stay out a little later due to the warm weather. We had to get home, there was Scottish hop to jump in and Barbies to play with, bikes to ride. We were all busy that night, we needed to get out of there. I’m sure no one else noticed this, but we were actually little adults with big plans. Friday night, playing hopscotch, was our social calendar and it was time to go.
Ms. Bjorklund was thinking back at his desk. Then he started looking out the windows. That was it !!! We would send someone out the window. We were on the first floor. The windows were opened, so it had to be someone small to get through the hole. Who could it be ????
We had a volunteer, Timmy Fleck. Timmy came from a great family. All the children looked alike. Small, slim frames, freckles and a mop of red hair. I had a feeling Timmy might have missed these kinds of windows earlier. He was that kind of kid, always living on the edge.
One day in art class we were all wearing our art robes (Daddy’s old shirt backwards), our art teacher gave each of us a piece of charcoal. We were supposed to draw a picture of a house. So while we were all trying to do this, Timmy raised his to go to the boys’ room.
He went in there and drew a beard, mustache, and eyebrows with the charcoal. Then he went back to class. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in school before or since. It was the funniest thing a seven year old boy did that I witnessed. He got into trouble.
So when he volunteered to go out the window, none of us were surprised.
He climbed onto the window sills and Mrs Bjorklund made him come out the window, grabbed him by the ankles and started pushing him. There was only one problem. It didn’t fit.
Looks like Timmy had some kind of growth spurt in second grade. He hadn’t really noticed it before, but it was getting bigger. Despite this, he was still the smallest boy in the class.
Ms. Bjorklund dragged him inside. Two or three more children were crying.
We were never going out. We would die there. Our parents joined in and looked for us. When our poor flabby bodies were finally discovered, it would be too late. The whole town would be sad. There would not be a church big enough to house all the grieving families.
They would all be so sad and sing our favorite song. Yes, they would learn “Carmelita”. Maybe they would even get a donkey to pull the cart to the coffins. Perhaps the donkey could even walk with a cheerful clop. It was so sad.
In a few years, the children will follow the example we gave them. We die in school, learning things and they would remember us for it.
Boy, was he dramatic at seven.
Then I heard a knock !! At the door, someone was knocking !! We all applaud !!! It was Mr. Katon, he was there, he would save us. Ms. Bjorklund ran to the door and told him that it was stuck and that he couldn’t open it.
Mr. Katon told him to get away from the door and all the children to go back through the windows. So we all huddled by the windows. This was so exciting, like an episode of Lassie when dad finally follows Lassie to rescue the little boy.
Mr. Katon removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. With his shoulder down, he ran to the door and slammed it with all his might. It opened.
We all cheer and cheer. We were saved !! Mr. Katon saved us. We were all happy and smiling. This was the best day of my life. It was as if a superhero had saved us. He saved us from death, saved us from getting in trouble for missing dinner, saved us from growing up and getting married and having children and telling them the powerful story of how we look death in the face and laugh.
Okay, I’m still dramatic.
Looking back on that day seems like a lot of fun now. It sure wasn’t funny when it happened. I am still afraid. It’s funny, being scared now feels no different than being scared back then. Now I’m just afraid of different things. I’m afraid AA is a lot like being locked in a classroom on a Friday after noon. I have so many things to do, I am in a hurry to get out, I want and need to go see my friends, but just like in second grade, the door is closed.
Mr. Katon is not going to come and break down my door this time. I need to do it myself. If little Timmy Fleck can volunteer to go out the window and be held by the ankles off the ground, surely I will be able to go out and face whatever is there.
Heroes come in all sizes, from the great Mr. Katon to the little Timmy Fleck, they are all heroes in our lives. Our greatest hero is the one within all of us. The little voice that says “I’m still here, you can do anything if you try.”
So, what are you waiting for? It’s Friday afternoon, it’s nice, go get um !!!