I’m returning to my childhood and seeing what my tired brain can remember. It won’t give me the teachers’ names from grade school since I have always been lousy with names, but I remember the names of my classmates.
I spent kindergarten one block from my house at the local public school, which is now called P.S. 209 Margaret Mead School. I played paddle ball in the schoolyard when I was older, but the courts are gone, replaced by fake grass and running paths. My memories include the smell of Elmer’s Glue, construction paper, and the sound of kids’ voices echoing in the long hallways. Happy memories twirl around in my brain. I see flashes of my mother walking me to school, and it might have been possible that she saw enough at that age to accompany me.
For first grade, my parents sent me to Yeshiva of Brooklyn. A depressing school consisting of two houses linked by a courtyard on Ocean Parkway. We played on the strip of land between the busy street of cars and the sidewalk of houses.
Ocean Parkway was where I rode my bike when I was older. Getting back to first grade, I hated the school. They taught us English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. The teachers and students were much more religious than my family, and I felt like an outsider. I refused to learn Hebrew and Yiddish, and my parents and the school assumed I had a learning disability. It was a preview of how stubborn I can be if something goes against what I want or what is right. One teacher was so mean to me that I had nightmares of her wig getting caught on the hook above the blackboard, like a fish caught by a hook. My parents removed me from this hellhole, and I was sent to Yeshivah Ohel Moshe.
I found this picture on Google, and Ohel Moshe hasn’t changed.
I see a traffic light has been installed. A good idea since I had to run across the busy street to catch the public bus. Did I mention I had to take two buses each way for 6 days a week? We had Sunday school. I waited forever for the buses in the rain and snow, and the commute took over an hour. We had school buses through 4th grade and then public transportation. I was proud of my bus pass. Yes, I’m one of those parents who told their children about their long trek when they complained about walking a few blocks to school.
“Yeshiva Ohel Moshe is a Bensonhurst-based, Orthodox elementary school that was opened in 1927. Under the leadership of the late Rabbi Eliyahu Machlis, Yeshivah Ohel Moshe was known for its “Open Door” policy when accepting students and congregants alike.” Wikipedia
I guess its open-door policy allowed me to attend. As soon as I switched schools, I did well and was at the top of my class, where I competed with the cute boy I liked. Our classes were small; we had 12 gives and close to 20 boys. The size fluctuated each year. We gained students after a public school strike, and many kids stayed after the strike finished. The school was religious but more lenient than the other school.
There was little bullying, except for one boy who looked dirty all the time, so people called him Shmutz, which means dirt in Yiddish. I refused to bully anyone and stood up to anyone poking fun at someone. I refused to call him Shmutz, even to my friends, until he got angry one day when I tagged him out in punch ball, ramming me into the fence. My finger got big and swollen. When I found out it was broken, Shmutz got in trouble. He never apologized but gave me ‘dirty’ looks, deserving the nickname.
My high school years were spent at Yeshivah University H.S. for Girls. I didn’t want to attend a girls’ school, but Yeshiva of Flatbush was too expensive, even though I got in. I met the snobby girls who later moved to Long Island and didn’t bother to acknowledge me. Not all the girls thought the world revolved around them, and I made good friends.
Do I see any of these friends? No. It wasn’t easy going to Yeshivah with all the restrictions, and I was happy to graduate and begin my life. I attended Boston University for a year, then switched to New York University, where I graduated. Later, I received an M.B.A. in Finance from Baruch College. I didn’t enjoy learning until my college years. I’ve always loved reading, but college opened new doors for me.
New York University is a quaint college in a bustling city. I had to commute by train, but it was worth the trip.