|Megan and Teresa, Millennium Park in Chicago, 2015|
It started with a sleepover at her house on B Street in Petaluma in 1976. We were both in the 5th grade. She invited me. I don't recall when Teresa came to McNear Elementary, but I think 5th grade with Mrs. Butler was the first time we were in the same class.
California schools had terrible budget issues in the 1970's. We had large classes by today's standards -- about 35 pupils. No gym, art, or music teachers. The main teacher did all of that, as well as teach us to dance. The only prep time elementary teachers got throughout the day was recess and lunch, which were were longer than they are today. We got a few 15 minute breaks morning and afternoon, and an hour in the middle of the day to eat and play.
Our class that year was a hybrid of 4th and 5th graders because the district was too broke to hire another teacher. There was one totally 4th grade class and one totally 5th grade class in the school, and then there was ours. My mother didn't like my class at all. I don't know how I got assigned to the hybrid class, because I was one of the best students in my grade. It was probably because I could work independently. Mrs. Butler would give us reading assignments, worksheets, and math problems. It was all "go at your own pace" with not much group work or classroom discussion. I taught myself most of the math that year by reading sample problems from the text book. If I had a question I could approach Mrs. Butler's desk and stand in line until it was my turn to ask for help.
Next year in 6th grade I was a little disappointed when the teacher, Mrs. Gardener, got in the front of the classroom and actually wrote problems on the board to teach us math.
Although I resented being put with 4th graders, I came to like the learning structure that year. It was perfect for me. The number of minutes per day we were required to sit, be quiet, and focus up front was greatly reduced from a traditional classroom, so we kids had more time to socialize. That's how it came to be that Teresa invited me over.
The First Sleepover
|Ready for the dance! 1979|
It was an older house that her parents rented, painted white and with a small oval-shaped stained glass window in the front. There were wood floors, I think, in the living and dining room areas. There were two bedrooms and a bathroom in-between with a tub but no shower. Teresa and her mother Jackie slept together in one of the rooms, and her father and brother Shawn slept in the other. She said her parents didn't sleep together because her father snored. I thought it was cool she shared a room and clothes and makeup with her mother. The kitchen was in the back, and behind it a screen porch led to the backyard area.
Teresa's parents were from Missouri and spoke with a Southern drawl of sorts, which made them seem exotic to me. That first evening Jackie made Southern fried chicken for us kids. Yum. But she cooked hamburgers for Teresa's dad because he didn't like chicken. Right then I knew she was a different sort of wonderful mother than mine. At my house, whatever my mom was cooking, we were eating, my dad included. Mom would not cook a separate dish for just one of us. None of my family dared to be a picky eater.