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July 21, 2009

Crazy Babysitters and the Moon Walk

Crazy Babysitters and the Moon Walk

To say we're in the slow end of the summer news cycle would be understating the obvious. The most exciting aspect of Sonia Sotomayor's hearings was making fun of newscasters trying to outdo each other Plantains in pronouncing her last name in a Puerto Rican accent, as if this veteran judge, summa cum laude Princeton graduate, Yale-educated lawyer was nothing more than a single woman who could fry up a mean plantain. 

You know it's bad when it takes icons like Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite at least a week to die afer they're dead. Ditto for the anniversary of the 1969 moon walk.

Now, don't get me wrong. I, too, get sentimental looking back through the avocado green haze to my suburban childhood. There was no better time, it seems, than the era of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Beatles saying goodbye in Hey Jude, Creedence, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Nixon. Okay, maybe not so much with the Nixon. 

My hippie brother was seventeen with an okay draft number. The brother behind him would not be so lucky. But for the moment they were the only people with me when Neil Armstrong walked on the moonNeil  because my parents, as they were want to do, were on vacation without us. Oh, and there was Mrs. Wolf. Crazy, crazy Mrs. Wolf.

Why my mother felt it was A-okay to leave me, age six, with a woman who doubted the existence of gravity but it was not okay to leave me with my teenage brothers who did not, is a mystery that will never be answered. Mrs. Wolf was about 5'4" and filled with Pennsylvania Dutch superstitions. I liked her, however, because she let me watch as much TV as I wanted and also allowed me to sleep with her in my parents bed. (God only knows what happened there.) That's where we watched the moon walk.

I was enthralled. My memory is blurry, but I remember it as being a daylong event culminating at a nighttime moonwalk. (In checking BBC, I see that Armstrong hit the surface at about 10:30 p.m. DST.) As I lay there next to Mrs. Wolf, my oldest brother walked in and watched it with us, remarking on the miracle.

"Ah," Mrs. Wolf snorted, "I don't believe it."

Columbus Indeed, it was unbelievable, but not in the way the rest of us thought. It was unbelievable because Mrs. Wolf in 1969 was thoroughly, utterly convinced the world was flat. And there was no talking her out of it, either. Her argument was that we were on one big plane (think pre-Columbus) and there was an edge to the Earth that was unreachable. The moon thing was merely a mirage. Oh, and another minor point. WE were at the center of the universe, not the sun.

We tried to explain that the Earth was a sphere, that gravity kept us all grounded and that the astronauts had shot beyond our orbit to the moon's lighter pull. But that didn't make any sense to Mrs. Wolf because if we lived on one big ball - then we would fall off. Logic, right?

The most visual image I have of that night is of my brother holding a hinged photo frame to show that when he undid the clasp, the bottom of the frame fell down. Gravity.

"No," Mrs. Wolf said. "It fell down because it fell down."

This would have freaked me out if I didn't encounter people everyday in my hometown of Bethlehem who were set in their ideas about certain physical properties. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Sheetz, instructed us that sleeping curled in any fashion would result in curled spines. As a result, all over town little seven-year-olds (or, in my case, six - I would enter 2nd grade right after Mrs. Wolf's summer of enlightenment) were ramrod straight in their beds. Crossing eyes kept them that way. And failing to say "Oy" while crossing your index fingers after someone hexed you was just plain foolish.

Try explaining to these people that their president, the one who scowled at us from every classroom wall,Nixon  had violated the Constitution. Try explaining what the Constitution really was. I mean, besides the right to bear arms.

So, I'm wondering. Was I the only person around crazy people as a kid? Or did you, too, happen upon the occasional nutter. Because reading these articles about people disbelieving a moon walk ever existed does not come as a surprise to me, though it might to Mrs. Wolf who no doubt is on the heavenly plane with God looking down at us like we're in the center ring at Cirque du Soleil.

Perhaps the joke's on me.....



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Well, when I was in 2nd grade in 1969, Mrs. Weiler, our crochety old sitter, washed my mouth out with soap because I used bad words. The soap didn't taste good, but I didn't use the words around her anymore. I still use them, though.

Only if crazy is B-O-R-I-N-G...under my roof was controlled boring. Luckily outside was the hum of crazy.Growing up in a Boston suburb filled to the brim with Harvard Profs, doctors, lawyers and perhaps an Indian Chief. Crazy was not far..Neighbor wore wooden dutch clogs and was sure curtains were the cause of all fires...I become an observer of life with a quick ride to Harvard Sq and Boston! Good times!

My sixth grade science teacher taught us that man did not land on the moon, but had landed in the desert in Arizona AND that the world was flat. No matter what, we ignorant students could not convince him otherwise and if we put anything different on the tests he gave us, he would flunk us.

I love Mrs. Wolf, too! What imagination!

But sleeping in the same bed with her? Ew.

I have to go with Nancy - Ewww on sleeping in the same bed with weird Mrs. Wolf.

I read all the stories y'all have and realize...what a boring life I've lived! No crazy teachers...just drunk ones. No crazy babysitters...only a grandma who spoiled me.

Sigh. I can add no cool craziness here.

PS - In PA waving hi to all y'all. At Gettysburg, doing the history thang. Loving. Surprised at the size of Gettysburg battle fields. I had no idea.

My 5th grade teacher told our class that anyone who opposed the Viet Nam war was a COMMUNIST!!! And I knew my Dad was opposed to the war. I came home in tears, sure my father would be arrested and thown in jail. Dad explained that my teacher was AN IDIOT. Wow--a teacher could be an idiot? What a concept.

That was the day I lost my respect for authority.

Oh, I forgot to mention the next door neighbor who mowed down her entire back woods (It was a pretty wooded area) because she was convinced Communists were spying on her. Yeah, that's right. The Russians invade and whom do they target first? Mrs. Karabin.

Well, I was living in suburban Chicago in the 60s, and there was the lady down the street who were sure the 1968 protesters were going to set rats loose in the suburbs.

And my seventh grade science teacher (who did believe in gravity and the moon landing) was positive the metric system would take over so we spent most of the year learning it.

Nothing like starting the day with tales of conspiracy wakos. I remember the moon landing and that my parents kept me awake to watch it because it was important. Thanks Mom and Dad. As the "IT Guy" I had to try to explain the difference between whitehouse.com and .gov, to a teacher. It was during the Clinton administration which did not help. She still "knows" that President Clinton filled the White House web site with porn. I should not have bothered. About a month later I tried to explain the daily lotto and why winning $50 or so a month while only playing $5 a day was not "wining." Sadly, she was a math teacher

My grandmother was born in 1897. When she was 9, her father (a huge bastard from what my dad says) made her quit school so she could hop on the street car and go clean rich people's houses in St. Louis.

She didn't get along with other women very well. But one time she was in the hospital and she & her roommate got along very well. You could hear them laugh from down the hall. One morning the roommate's priest came in to visit. When my grandmother (a staunch Lutheran) found out she was Catholic, she didn't talk to her, didn't acknowledge her, and was angry that she decieved her. WTF? Deceived her?

This is also the woman who swore up & down that students from a local private, all girls college (Lindenwood University; has been co-ed for quite some time) were stealing her underwear from her clothesline.

Hey....what's with the crazy teachers?

Wow. And I thought the nuns in my Catholic High School were crazy. They were Einstein compared to these stories.

I don't remember any really crazy stuff. Maybe I've blocked it out.

What?! Teachers are fallible? Best not tell my sister-in-law any such thing. She's convinced she knows everything because she's a teacher. Oy.

My first (of two) stepdad was a moon landing conspiracy theorist, utterly unconvinced that anyone ever landed there. However, he also had a theory that absolutely contradicted that belief, that weather was getting crazy because of all the holes NASA was poking into the atmosphere. Hey, he was good to my mom, and that's all I cared about. I just made sure not to set him off when I was around because his rants could last seemingly forever.

Oddly enough, stepdad #2 was an engineer, a brilliant man who would have laughed his ass off at SD#1. Mother sure can pick 'em. Considering her main criteria was how much nice jewelry they bought her, it's not too surprising they were so different, I guess.

Oh, how I love the crazy ones. I'd better, since half my family falls into that category.

No crazy babysitters - unless you count crazy relatives.

But teachers? Please. Small town, lots of rednecks (and I say that with love in many cases). I think I was in 8th grade the first time I took on a teacher during class over some political bullshit. First trip to the principals office, too. Then there was the 9th grade health teacher who taught us that all birth control was evil and sex was the devil. You can imagine how that ended. (In case you can't, picture a Pontiac covered in condoms).

And the civics teacher who loved Nixon and thought the whole Watergate thing was a communist plot. The thing was, he didn't even have the basic facts right, and I'd spent the previous night with my Nana and Pupup, who most certainly did. They were the ones I called to pick me up from the principals office and I think the entire office staff learned some new words in many languages from my Pupup that day.

From then on, I was looking for arguments (surprised?). Pure biblical creationism from the Earth Science teacher ended with him in tears and me at home. Yeah, I was raised RC, but it didn't mean I shut my brain down.

I wish I could say I've totally matured, but just last week I got into it with someone about this moronic Obama birth certificate thing.

Oh, boy! Recently, my brother and I started talking about the neighborhood we grew up in and how strange it was now that we looked back on it: the two young men who'd been forcibly brought back home from a cult and deprogrammed, the mothers who drank, the kid who used to shoot his bb gun out the window at anyone going by, the woman who was notorious for having men come in and out while her husband was at work, the policeman who used to beat his wife and moved shortly after being kicked off the force, the hippie down the street who offered us all drugs, the babysitter who invited all her druggie friends in to have a party, and robbed our house (while we were upstairs) and all the other wackos.

The other people listening to us had their mouths hanging open in shock. As kids we knew some of our neighbors were strange, but we really had no idea how strange. And from the outside, it looked like a nice, normal middle-class neighborhood. Ha!

Someone in my family forwarded (to a million other people, naturally) this idiotic email about a bill supposedly before the Democratic Congress right now that would cost every taxpayer $50 a year for each gun they own. It has a bare basis in fact--it's based on a bill that was put before Congress in 2000--but it's completely false today. I responded "all" that Snopes.com said it was a hoax, and my aunt replies "Thanks for sending this, I forwarded it to another million people. This would cost your uncle a fortune." Huh?

My entire family is like this, sadly.

Karin, have you read "White Oleander"? One of the reasons behind the book was the author's idea that, of 50 homes on a street, there would be 50 different and sometimes wildly off stories and histories. It's so true. We have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, and sometimes it's beyond our wildest dreams.

OMG, I am not in your league! You guys have some very good crazies.

But let's see: my best friend's mother confided to me, after he was diagnosed with AIDS, that it was her fault, because she acquiesced to his request for tap dancing lessons at a young age. Yes, it's well known that teaching a boy to tap dance makes him gay.

We believed in gravity, but as you may recall from previous blogs, I have a lot of hooey wooey in the family; thus, key relatives believed themselves to have been transported here from other planets. But that hardly counts, right?

I alienated my MIL and for a while my BIL during the election. I swore to them if they ever sent me another email about how Obama was:
1. A Muslim.
2. A robot (no I am not kidding. And no, I deleted it)
3. going to take away our guns, so go out & buy one today!
4. Was not a US citizen (that pesky HI birth certificate)
5. He was Bin Laden's son. (Yeah, they look so much alike).

My BIL thought the whole thing funny and ceased & disisted right away, but my MIL was very worried that her son married a liberal pinko. Until he told her he voted for Obama, too. She just sighed and said, "Its too late".

I need to add to the dumb teachers. I work on school computer and have for a long time. I was working in a classroom on the computers while a student teacher started to teach the earth's rotation backward. A 2nd grader corrected her and when she corrected him, I had to speak up and say, he is right. After all, how many times a day do you hear 8pm eastern, 7 central?

Another student teacher started to teach that Ben Franklin invented the printing press. Another student corrected her too. That pesky Gutenberg guy, just screwed everything up.

No wonder Jay Leno had so many worrisome but hilarious wrong answers on his Jay Walking segments. So many of the teachers in this country are so dim!

I can't remember any crazies, well except for my one aunt who was strict Southern Baptist. Sh wouldn't let her foster girl wear shorts or slacks. Dad had to take his beer sign down when she visited. She had a fit when one of the cousins brought beer to a reunion. But he liberated everyone when he told her he was an adult, get over it!

And crazy teachers? Hey, Kathy & I worked hard to make them that way! LOL

Cyndi, I love Gettysburg! We were just there in May, for the 4th or 5th time.

Let me know if you thought as I do when I look at the field that Pickett charged. Basically, "What the hell were they thinking?"

On the subject of babysitters, as the youngest of nine, I never had one that wasn't a sibling. So maybe I just thought crazy was normal.

How about Sister Valeria,who believed teenage boys were only after one thing. (She was right.) She also believed we girls should carry a phone book with us if we sat on a boy's lap in the car on the way home from the football game. I still have visions of guys getting slapped in the crotch with phone books.
Elaine Viets

--I alienated my MIL and for a while my BIL during the election. I swore to them if they ever sent me another email about how Obama was:
Pam, what was the "then" part of the statement?
The birth certificate demand is still circulating . . .and just yesterday I was told that Obama wants a health plan that will make all of us wait a year to see a doctor? (actually, sometimes waiting a week takes care of whatever is wrong . . .but I'm going to get my physical anyway).
It all makes me wonder why anyone is willing to step up for public office. Sigh!

Yeah, I kinda alienated my MIL from the beginning. She has never really liked me. I respect her; she had a real piece of work for a husband (#1-he died in 1987). She deserves all of the happiness she can get and already has her place in heaven reserved (#1 had a stroke & was in a wheelchair for 12 years. She took excellent care of him). But I don't like her and I don't like how she has treated my kids like second class citizens (compared to her other grandchildren). We just stay out of each other's way and avoid talking about much of anything and we a civil.

Can't do better than that.

We ARE civil. Geez. Though I had had enough coffee...evidently not.

Dunno what it was about crazy teachers, Sarah.

Sister Clarice, a young nun in 1966, broke her hip. She claimed The Devil had knocked her down in revenge because she had broken a student's ouija board. Now that I think of it, there were signs she was schitzy.

Sister Lucilla was elderly, and obsessed with bodily functions. There were rigidly prescribed rules of eating, starting with the 'morsel,' her word, in the right hand and cup always in the left. Tough for Brian Zimmer, who was left-handed.

And never sit on anything made of stone during a month with an 'R' in it, or a case of the piles was coming your way.

Teach evolution? The Pope said no, at least in 1966. It was FALSE. Or so she claimed.

Poor Lucilla. She'd be screaming more and more through the year that we were crabs and lobsters and wicked, wicked, wicked. Then she'd fall apart every spring. In those days it was called a nervous breakdown, but no one said so. All her classes finished their year's last months with a substitute teacher.

Lobsters and crabs aren't wicked, just forbidden. May Sr. Lucilla was raised an orthodox Jew?

Sarah, the definative quote on Crazy People.

Desinging Women, season three, episode: Bernice's Sanity Hearing.

Julia: And just for the record, I think you should know, even if Bernice were crazy, that doesn't necessarily mean she should be put away.

Phyllis: What are you saying?

Julia: I'm saying this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic. We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they're on.

Phyllis: Oh? And which side are yours on Mrs. Sugarbaker?

Julia: Both.

I aspire to be Julia Sugarbaker.

I fail miserably.

Thanks for that, Pam. Speaking of the South, I am reading the most amazing book. I can't tell you how good this book is, how well it's written, how the story grabs you and the characters and.....I could go on and on.

It's called THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett and I do not want it to end.

Go out and grab a copy today. I don't know Kathryn or anything. It's just a book I found that was linked to mine for whatever goddamn reason in Amazon.

I don't remember the moonwalk - even though I was 9. But I do remember vaguely seeing the Beatles when I was 4. We only got one tv channel (CBC) so may not have gotten the moon landing.
I don't remember crazy people in our small town but do remember the dictator teacher in Grade 6 who threw a kid across the room. And the Grade 8 teacher that everyone knew smoked large quantities of pot. In Grade 9 it was well known that Mr. French (who taught English) was drunk all day.

Karen in Ohio, thanks, I'm headed to the bookstore this afternoon and will look for a copy of White Oleander.

My strangest teacher was my American History teacher. At the beginning of each class (7 per day), she would get her class "pet" to go down the hall and fill her cup 1/2 full of water. I never saw her cup 1/2 full on her desk. It was always full. Hm, how did that happen? Can you say vodka? Towards the end of the day, she was a little, um, vague, shall we say? She also started out the semester saying we were a bunch of losers who would never pass Am. Hist. Except her "pet", of course.

I had a teacher in 7th grade (who today would be brought up on child molestation charges) who didn't pick me for the varsity softball team because I wouldn't let him put his head on my shoulder. He always had his hair greased back and was just gross.

When my daughter was in 3rd grade, there were 3 third grade classes. One of the other teachers, thank goodness, told her class that if they went Trick or Treating they would go to hell. Boy was there a line of parents at the Principal's office the next day.

I'm going to change the title of this blog from crazy babysitters to crazy teachers.....

Good plan, Sarah.

When my youngest aunt was in high school, nine years before I got there, she had the same gym teacher we had later. They had a daily war over my aunt's laziness, ending in the teacher telling my aunt that she would eventually weigh 200 pounds, which actually turned out exactly that way. But she was honestly nuts, making us do the dopiest things for gym. She was one of the few secular teachers at the Catholic high school, though.

I'm convinced that some of the nuns who had to teach when they were way up in age were suffering from lack of hormones after their change of life had passed. Our fourth grade teacher used to chase the boys around the playground with a belt. She was about as tall as the average fourth grader, and so old, probably in her 70's. She was seriously cranky. The fifth grade nun was worse, even though she was younger, and had more of a mustache than my dad did. It was such a relief to get mother and daughter teachers in sixth and seventh grades. They took turns teaching certain subjects so we had them both for two years, and I grew very fond of the daughter, who used to invite the girls in the choir to her nearby home after Saturday weddings (she played the organ).

Mrs. Weston, Ms (aka Sgt.) Seidel. Yup. Remember them well. Still have nightmares of them, too.

My only crazy teacher was the one who would wear micro-mini's and prance on the cabinets when the parents would visit our classrooms.

Other than that, life was semi-normal.

ArCyndi... how long will be in Gettysburg? I will be in Hanover visiting family Friday & Saturday. Do the audio-driving tour. And a ghost walk.

When I was around 15 a very old and very scary woman told me that it was against God's will to look into the future which included watching the weather report. I was scared to death to look at a horoscope which back then were a big deal. I still think about her almost every day when I watch the weather channel. Better to be cursed than to get rained on, right?

And that's just one of the crazies I have come into contact with over the years.....

Sarah, my favorite part of your blog entry today is where you say "And failing to say "Oy" while crossing your index fingers after someone hexed you was just plain foolish." What would being hexed by someone be? Or are we rather plain and dull here in the PacNW?

I told my junior high students that "dedicated" meant crazy (as in "you are so dedicated if you think I'm going to do all this work, Miss Garrett,"and that they should use that word often, especially when talking about me to the principal -- they played along because we liked humor in my classes.
One of my high school students told me that a friend's minister said that anyone who saw the Harry Potter movie would go to hell, and I laughed so hard! Fortunately, there were no other witnesses to my disrespecting of another's religion. I told him it was wrong of me to laugh, but I couldn't get over how crowded Hell would be if that was all it took to be sent there.

"May Sr. Lucilla was raised an orthodox Jew?"

Not sure, Alan; there was a tradition of tinkering and mechanical toys in the shtetl, but the old dear had a lot of screws loose.

I was thinking there were alot of crazy old nuns,but they probably had alheimers, they were kept around soooo long after they should have been retired.

I just remembered my Jr.H band director. The cute girls or suck-up boys were given first chair.

I remember one Christmas concert where he called out one girl from the band and told her that he was wrong about something and then he bent over and told her to kick him in the as$. WTF?

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