Snapshots – 4

I was warned, when I went into second grade that Mrs. Takacs was a scary teacher. However, no one could have prepared me for the first day in her classroom. She started out listing all the rules. Not only did she give us the rules, but she described what would be the consequences if we broke the rules. No sticking our feet into the aisles — she would step on them if we did. One look at her, and I tucked my feet under my desk and vowed I always would. No writing in cursive, or else we would get an F on our paper. No fighting or arguing, or she’d send us to the principles office. And there were more rules, many of which I don’t remember. I was beginning to wonder what was left that we were allowed to do before she was done. Then, for good measure, she said, “And if you break these rules…. ” she got up from behind her desk and went over to the counter where there was a big paper cutter. She picked up the handle of that thing and said, “I’ll put your head under here and… ” Whomp! She slammed the handle of the guillotine down with her mighty arm.

Being a child who took everything literally and one with an imagination, I saw a head rolling onto the floor, with a tongue hanging out. I was never so scared in all my life. I felt my hands getting sweaty and my heart was racing. I looked at the door of the classroom, hoping someone was coming to rescue us from this awful person who was supposed to be our teacher. I thought there had to be some mistake — teachers were kind, helpful people who were there to help children learn, right? I was paralyzed with fear.

I don’t remember how I got through that school day, but I do remember telling Mem what Mrs. Takacs said when I got home that day. Mem tried to assure me that Mrs. Takacs was just saying that so we would behave. I wasn’t so sure.

Years later, when I read Roald Dahl’s book Matilda to my sons, I recognized my second-grade teacher for who she was — Mrs. Trunchbull! I thought Roald Dahl must have had her for a teacher himself.

It was in second grade that the individual photo of me came about that wasn’t supposed to happen, at least not by Amish standards. On the morning of “picture day” my mother said, “Now if they insist that you need to be in the class picture, that’s okay.” I knew this was Mem’s way of saying, “I really don’t mind you taking pictures, but I can’t tell you it’s okay, because it’s not the Amish way. When I got to school, and the other children were lining up to go to the gym for pictures, Mrs. Takacs said, “Saloma, since you aren’t having your picture taken, you can stay in the classroom.” I popped up out of my seat and said, “But my mother said I could be in the class picture!” She ignored me, so I got in line with the other children, and when it was my turn, I climbed up on that stool and grinned my toothless smile into the lights and the camera.

Years later, after I’d left the Amish, I went back to the school I had attended, and asked if they had any pictures left from those days. She sent me to where the records were being kept. Someone pulled out my second-grade record, and there in the top left-hand corner was this picture of me — only 1 inch by 2 inches big. I explained to the keeper of the records that I had no other pictures of myself and asked that I be allowed to borrow it. She did allow it, so I had a photographer reproduce  and enlarge it. 

Recently, when David and I were talking about this, we realized that I was smiling into the future when I got up on that stool. This image used to be on every loaf of bread and pie and package of cookies I sold when I was a professional baker. Now it is on the cover of my book. Little did I know then…

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5 thoughts on “Snapshots – 4”

  1. What a precious, precious child you were! But that teacher should not have been allowed to teach. It is a very good example, however, that what is perfectly acceptable during one era may seem totally unacceptable at some future time. I’ve no doubt that those experiences helped to make you into the person you are today… just look at that bright, hopeful smile of yourself – What a future was waiting for you!

  2. It is a precious picture…I am glad you have it. My son had a teacher very much like that in his second year…I prayed God would remove her from the school before my daughter went to that grade…She retired after that year :) God is good!
    The very next year my son had the sweetest Christian teacher you could ask for…it was his first time being in love :)

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