Saturday, June 8, 2013

Me and Miss Frizzle

We said Good-Bye to the school year.   The whole school got together for an End-Of-Year assembly that we call a Community Sing.  It was lovely in a celebratory sort of way, but when lots and lots of grown-ups hover around the perimeter of a circle of kids taking photo after photo after photo - you can't get away from the performance aspect.   The big kids performed two dance pieces so well that my little group of two year olds had to be physically restrained from running to join them in the middle of the big circle.  I figured dancing along was good, as long as nobody crossed the blue tape defining our space and tripped a big kid.  Ergo: the two year olds danced in place and proceeded to plop all over me.  I became a BarcaLounger.

I have confidence there are several unflattering photos of me circulating among the parents' facebook pages this morning.  At one point, a little black girl with a head full of ponytails and a tousle-headed blue-eyed blond boy had both had enough fun for one morning.  Each used one of my big, squishy boobs for a pillow.   If any parent got that picture, it's the money shot of the day.  Martin Luther King, Jr's spirit hovers in the hallways of the church where I work, after all.  Fifty years ago when I was a little girl, such a scene would have been impossible to imagine.

Naturally, I cried when we sang "Inch by Inch, Row by Row."  I cry every year when we sing that song because as teachers of very young children, we bust our butts every year to make sure the kids understand what living in community means.  At least at my school we bust our butts - I'm pretty sure Martin Luther King makes sure our collective butts are busting.  The point of the whole preschool experience at our school is that the kids gain the understanding that in a community we take care of each other and our stuff.  Taking care of stuff is important because when we act as good stewards, then the community will always have plenty of good food, good toys and good art supplies. What more do you need?  And since the stuff belongs to the community - I guess we're fully communists.

I never thought about the political labels of preschool until the last couple of years because to me, political labels are something The Owners (as defined by George Carlin) use to keep the workers fighting with each other so we don't notice they're fucking us over - or following Jay Gould's famous boast regarding striking railroad workers and hiring one half of the working class to kill off the other.

When one of your school theme songs was popularized by Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, you may as well say it loud, I'm pinko and proud.

 I'd post a version that includes Arlo, but Arlo Guthrie has to tell a story every chance he gets so those videos are nine minutes long. Pete keeps it short and sweet which is a good thing whether you're two or fifty two (or even older like I am now since my birthday was last week).

Anyway - all this classroom and kid stuff has made me realize that I've become Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.

She's a redhead, too, like the woman leading the crowd in that painting, Liberty Leading the People about the Paris uprising in 1830, especially Storming the Bastille.  I like to think teaching preschool is my little way of storming the Bastille.  It may not be as spectacular and historic, but like Pete sings - Inch by Inch, Row by Row.   Over time, in the long run,  the work has impact.

Given that my parents used to compare me to Edith Ann on Laugh-In, it may have been inevitable that I'd evolve into another Lily Tomlin character as I aged.

Overall, Miss Frizzle is a wonderful character to be even though she's not a bit sexy as defined by Hollywood, the fashion industry and the media in general.  Neither was Lily Tomlin but she's brilliant and influential - so fuck 'em.

I've recently been reminded that one way The Patriarchy makes sure nobody listens to smart women is to denigrate their looks.  Zsuzanna Budapest, who writes extensively about the Goddess, feminism and pagan spirituality, was on Here Be Monsters with Gwen and Nicole last week (Consciousness Shift, June 6, 2013).  She had plenty to say about war being a business in a historical, feminist context.  Brilliant, insightful, funny and wise - kind of like Edith Ann now that I think about it, and certainly like Miss Frizzle who often tells her students, "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"

This whole aging thing is majorly unsettling because as women age, we're shoved into a severely marginalized zone where conventional thinking says we're dried up and generally worthless as human beings since we're past child bearing age, but reality shows we frequently have more money and social clout than anybody else in society - which is most likely why burning witches was so popular back in the day - it was the very best way for the Patriarchy (read The Church/State) to silence a woman and take her property (Burning Women: The European Witch Hunts, Enclosure and the Rise of Capitalism).  So even though I know intellectually that I'm just hitting my stride when it comes to professional accomplishment and that I am still sexual and vibrant and whatever - there's a lifetime of accumulated bullshit that says old women are worthless.  And the worst part is that Miss Frizzle isn't even all that old.


Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

My darling you LIFT ME UP~! I remember as a child watching on tv when MLK gave his I have a dream speech ...well a rebroadcast perhaps...but I identified as a child with what he was saying... we come to this world with a dream and challenge to make it happen but more effectively for all concerned; to reach for it. Simply take the risks. Your description of the RS school letting out is a picture of much of that speech in reality... as you say. And wow... isn't that a paradigm shifting all on it's own? We are getting there! Your further insights on women of a certain age brings the YES YES YES together for applause. Though more than not ... we are evolving and making changes that will someday change the world for the better. Because we KNOW better. Tricia, I think you point that out well. Great piece, as usual.

ellen abbott said...

Yeah, I get that society in this country tries to marginalize us older women and make us worthless and invisible but it only works if we older women buy into it and accept that label and fade back. They can say whatever they want but as long as we keep speaking out and making people see us and continue to contribute whatever it is we have to contribute then it doesn't really work. At least not on a personal level. I'm 63 and I have no problem getting in people's faces and expressing my opinion. They fail to see me at their peril.

PENolan said...

Thanks, y'all. One of the best things about getting older is finding so many wise and wonderful people welcoming you to the "other side"
I loved it when I turned 50, and I'm loving it even more now that I'm stressing about being 55ish.
Blessed Be

Gail said...

HEY TEXAS - I absolutely loev you and your wisdom and view of things, and as far as apre-school teacher? Those kids are lucky to have had you along their way so early in their innocent lives. The sense of protection and good direction and celebrating unique gifts and talents and I could go on and on. Love the music.and Lilly and every word here today, hallelujah.
Love Gail

Makropoulos said...

1. Thanks SO much for posting the Pete Seeger "Inch by Inch." I'm going to go learn how to play it on my guitar.

2. Miss Frizzle is so cool, and definitely a perfect character to be. I love it when she takes the bus under water! She's downright magical.

And so are you. I know I haven't been around much. Too too busy. But it's great to see your wonderful writing and sense of humour. I'll be around a bit more over the summer. . . . you too? Have a great one!

oh, in my "real" blog life I'm 200+ years old; in fact, I'm probably over 400. But when I'm not blogging, I'm about 55ish too. Sucks, doesn't it? Just don't think about the numbers, and it'lll be fine.

Susan Partlan said...

That song makes me cry too. And "the performance aspect" of just about everything in life now is driving me nuts.

It is so much to read posts you write about your little school community having visited the space in person.

You are such a hottie it is beyond me why you would even think for a second about your age. Btw, I love your biz idea of providing counseling to single Dads about parenting. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Hey pretty lady!
Checking in to say howdy, and happy end of the (school) year!
I'm gearing up for Pride--check you indox for an exciting Marshaling opportunty...

Cali said...

Gotta love "Inch by Inch." Especially the fact that your tiny tots have already learned it. They are SO LUCKY to have you as such an early influence. I don't know if you can do this or not, but one of the kindergarten teachers here in Podunk, CA, has a reunion party every year for her former students who are current 8th graders. It's a part of the graduation week festivities, at least for her students. I wasn't one of them, but I hear they have a good time. She does a slide show with all their school photos and any additional photos she has of each particular class. They have cookies and punch, a little dance party and I've heard it's a great time. Perhaps you could do something similar? But maybe for kids going into first grade so they still have some memories of your class? It's another chance to instill those pinko values we hold so dear.

Also, happy belated birthday and thanks for being a couple of years older and paving the way for me. It's greatly appreciated.

PENolan said...

Susan - I really think I'm on to something with that idea especially now that you think so too! Women always say that I'm a hottie - men don't say much of anything anymore. Maybe I look like I'm expensive, or too much trouble, or both.

Which brings me to ML: I LOVED being a marshall for the Sirens. Thanks for the invite, and I'll see you on Fifth Ave on June 30. Marching at the front of the Pride parade is invigorating on many levels.

Mak - it's written by a gardener in Maine named David Mallett in 1975. You should be able to find it easily. It's a beauty - and thanks for the encouragement.
Now that it's been a couple of weeks, I'm getting used to the whole 55 thing. The idea of going to meet Pinko at Burning makes a good Coming of Middle Age story. Who knows? I may even go

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