Thursday, June 4, 2015

The heartless Miss Hart

Well into his 80s Daddy would tell us stories from his childhood, stories we had never heard before. His brain was agile and healthy until the end of his life, so it wasn’t a case of him losing mental faculties and slipping back into his youth.

One story he told made our hearts ache. Apparently he had a teacher in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, when he was very young (perhaps first or second grade) named Miss Hart. Miss Hart didn’t like little Donald and she used to scold him and humiliate him. Daddy said that she put him the corner of the classroom and made him wear the shameful dunce cap—she told him he was stupid. Or she made him sit under her desk as punishment.

What my father could have done to elicit this severe humiliation is inconceivable. He was the sweetest, kindest, most hardworking man I have ever known. He was conscientious and he was very smart. He could figure out how to fix anything or build anything. He even cut my hair when I was in high school and my friends asked if he would cut their hair. There was nothing he couldn’t do or figure out how to do. He deserved a crown, a Nobel prize, canonization, not a dunce cap.

The only thing I can imagine he might have done to annoy the cruel Miss Hart is that he might have been a little too sociable. My father could talk the fleas off a dog. It was a trait so deeply ingrained he must have had it at birth so I’m sure he visited his little first grade classmates outside of visiting hours.

What is so sad is that he still felt the shame inflicted on him in that classroom some 80 years after the fact. He said he always felt like he was dumb. And these 80-plus years after the fact I’m angry that the heartless Miss Hart hurt that precious little boy who grew up to be my dad.


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