The memories of my childhood education are the foundation for my beliefs today.
They are from a white middle class suburban community where in the 1950s and early 1960s schools were supposed to be a microcosm of American society.
Probably my highest achievement was giving the graduation speech for my grammar school, "Good-bye Cleveland, Hello High School." I guess that meant my teachers thought I was somewhat of a role model and also that I would get the job done. I was also proud to have been selected to be a member of an after school singing octet with my amazing music teacher, Mrs. Smith. I know I enjoyed the practices almost as much as the performances.
It was not all success for me in the cocoon in which I grew up. I didn't make cheerleading in the eighth grade, only in the seventh grade. I was selected to play the viola in the school orchestra rather than the coveted violin slot.
My school, a lovely blonde building in the middle of a residential neighborhood, became the backbone for the life I would later lead.
It was there that I learned to sing the Negro spiritual "Ain"t a That Good News" from Mrs. Smith and where I learned to diagram sentences from Mrs. Norkett and memorize the preamble to the Constitution from Mrs. Lago. It was there that I wrote a paper on "A House Divided." It was with my schoolmates that I played jacks at recess, traded baseball cards with the guys, and traveled to see the Chicago stockyards on a field trip.
After school many of my classmates and I would often walk home together after stopping at Tom's candy store to get a treat. And when I got home to my 1500 square foot house, I would relax with my brother as we watched Howdy Doody, Clarabelle and Mr. Bluster, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie and later Spin and Marty on our twelve inch television. Tim Considine (Spin) was so handsome.
I guess those easy, breezy days had to end when we said good by to Cleveland and hello to high school. For me, the competition would get greater and the ability to stand out would become more difficult. I always admired those who were comfortable with their innate abilities who just seemed to fall naturally into place. Most of us wanted more and struggled to find our places.
Those early happy days are the basis for everything else I have done in my lucky long life. I am usually pretty optimistic. I take my defeats and move on and try to alter the steps I take to gain some progress. As my father always said, you take two steps forward and one step backward. And I take moments off from my continual fierce ambition to just have a good time. What could be more American?
Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Harvey became a movie in 1950!