Remembering Maude

Next week I fly out to Brisbane, Australia, for my 30-year school reunion. I expect there will be a torrent of tales resurrected from the annals of our particular history, a lot of which should probably stay there (since mum still doesn't know most of it). But it has me thinking a lot about my school days, and it's surprising really that I had time for an education.

For some bizarre reason I was enrolled in chemistry in Years 11 & 12 (senior) along with three other girls. It was not a popular subject, firstly because, well, it was chemistry and an all-girls school, and secondly because the teacher was very difficult to understand as he had a broad Indian accent. I had no hope, and this was confirmed when I received the first semester's exam paper. While my fellow students were busy writing illustrious answers on their exam papers, I sat baffled pondering a course of action. There was nowhere to hide in a chemistry lab filled with just four students, so I had to write something. I turned the paper to its blank side and started to draw. Now, I'm no artist, but something had to fill the hours and the space, so I drew a legion of circus fleas. There was a flea on a trapeze, a flea with a long beard, a flea with two heads, a flea in a cannon, a flea on a mini tricycle, and a flea on stilts. I don't recall the rest, but my fleas filled the page and the time. At the end, I was quite pleased with myself—I hadn't left the room at the outset (way too embarrassing), and I'd whiled away the hours with an achievement of sorts. I handed in my exam paper (having answered the few questions that I could on the periodic table and equations) and didn't expect to hear any more about it (except from my mother when the results arrived). However, I was then invited to attend the principal's office and she, "Maude" as we liked to call her, was not amused. I guess this is the life of an artist—to have your work scorned and unappreciated by others.

I wish I could say that this was the one and only occasion I had to visit Maude, but alas, there were a couple of other ‘incidents'. And since it was quite a small school, less than 1,000 students back then, and a school for purported ladies, everyone in the entire school knew if you'd been to Paterson House to see Maude. Nevertheless, I survived, and I was not alone.

You're probably wondering if I managed to pass chemistry given my beginnings, and surprisingly, I did, since my mother engaged a tutor who spoke English I could understand, and a new world of atoms and molecules presented themselves to me.

What about you—anything you've tried to forget from your school days, but haven't, or had, until I mentioned it?

#home #australia #childhood

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2016 by Leigh K Cunningham

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