That was the first school I ever attended. Nestled almost in the center of Greenwich Village, it was a terrific location. Only a short, pleasant walk from our apartment, the tree lined street that that housed the school became even more enchanting with leaves changes color in the fall, my favorite time of year. (Other than it meant that school was starting). PS 41 was “the statement” on the Village.
The only issue was, I hated going to School. In retrospect, the reasons were many. First and foremost, my mother was very over-protective; I was never out of her sight, so the thought of having to leave her and be on my own scared the living hell out of me. I never had any friends before school started (other than Robert, but I was already six when he made his grand entrance into my life), so I had no idea how to interact with other kids. Second, I didn’t make any friends when school did start, I was always alone and felt like an outcast. As I mentioned previously, Richard Zimmer became a friend, but I was never in any of his classrooms because Richard was extremely smart, even as a young child, and was always in the classes set up for “advanced kids”. I was in no way advanced. From an early age I was what one would call a bit dorky; I looked dorky, I dressed dorky and I probably sounded dorky. Other kids went through great efforts to point that out to me, repeatedly, which made my experience at school all that more pleasant.
So, in the early years, I would literally get sick every morning before school, and, on many days, the school would have to call mom to come get me because I got sick later in the day. I dreaded going. In the “later years”, grades 3 through 5, I would not get physically ill, but would be stressed and spend most of the day waiting until the moment I could leave. When I was “old enough” to stay at school for lunch, I always found myself at a table by myself. This made me even more self-conscious, and was probably the beginning of image issues that have lasted most of my life. In many areas, they are still there, but more about that another time. I don’t write this to get sympathy, I write it to give you the truth. Also, to give you the contrast of attending such a “cool” school and what the experiences was actually like for me.
My kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Croiser and she was the epitome of the kindergarten teacher: a bit later in years, silver hair, short in stature, kind in face with the patience of Job. Even with her as my teacher, I didn’t want to be there. Other teaches from PS 41 that I remember well: Miss Clipper; she was the teacher all the kids feared. No one wanted to be in her class. Tall, thin, short hair and a pretty sour look on her face all the time. She was the teacher that yelled at you and wouldn’t stand for any misbehaving. I never really had any trouble with her, but that’s because she was busy dealing with the other normal kids who actually cut-up in class and did average kid things. She had nothing to worry about with me, I just sat at my little desk and did whatever she told me to do. Mrs. Cappiaggi. I think she was the first grown woman I had a crush on. She was beautiful, with that Sophia Loren look. I went out of my way to run into her in the hallway just so she would smile at me. She had a beautiful, kind smile. The only problem was, I was not in her class. She was the teacher for the “advanced” kids, so Richard Zimmer had her as his teacher. That really annoyed me, as I don’t think Richard appreciated her beauty, all he cared about was learning. I didn’t comprehend that. Then, there was Miss Salomando. Dark short hair, perky and vibrant. She spoke three languages and was always trying to teach us little phrases in Italian or French or Spanish. I always liked how she dressed. Flashy, bold colors, with a real New York flair. Nothing at all like the picture that one would have of “teacher” back in the day. I think my Dad had his own little thing for her. I never had a problem getting him to come to parent teacher days when Miss Salomando was my teacher. I always noticed an extra splash of Aqua Vela as well. Odd how I never remember Mom present the parent teacher meetings when Miss Salomando was involved. I think Dad probably told her not to worry about it and that someone had to stay home with the baby because it wasn’t fair to take him out. Whatever.
So, there you have the hall of fame of my elementary school teachers at PS 41. I find it interesting that I still have a vivid memory of them after all these years. Quite the testimony to them. Yet, this set of unique, caring teachers could not make my experience good. They made it easier, because they were all, in fact, kind and caring people. They never made me feel the outcast that other kids did. As a matter of fact, I think they sensed something because they all went out of their way to give me that extra big smile (even Miss Clipper), and would even seek out a hug. Bravo to good, caring teachers.
I don’t know if PS 41 is still in existence, I hope it is. I hope those beautiful trees are still changing to flaming orange when the air gets cool in October. I hope they still decorate the halls with holiday drawings from the kids. Images of Thanksgiving Turkeys and Pilgrims and Halloween Ghosts and Christmas angels. I hope the playground in the back of the school is still filled with running, happy children and I hope there are still caring, loving teachers present who make the day a bit more bearable for the outcast kids who really have no one to play with during recess.