Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sid, Wonder Woman

Sid being Sid at a fundraiser.
I have always considered myself to be lucky.  I had no choice in who my parents and sister would be...and how fortunate that I landed in a supportive and loving family.  I did choose to say 'yes' to Ray's proposal of marriage...and that, too, has proven to be one of the best decisions I have made.  But this post is about how fortunate I feel in choosing to remain a teacher/counselor in a small school district and being able to work with many great being, Sid Schafer, our middle school secretary.

Anyone who has worked in a school knows that the secretary is core of a successful school.  Anyone else can be absent (including the principal), but on the rare day that the secretary is absent...there is an underlying panic as to hoping nothing out of the ordinary occurs.  I am not going to go into all that the school secretary does because that would take pages...and this post is about one special person who happened to be the school secretary.

I can't remember the first time I met Sid.  I know that when I began teaching at the middle school, Sid greeted me with a serious look but with mischievous eyes.  I had walked into the office, the week before school, asking for my class lists and schedule.  "We don't have those yet," was her reply.  She could read the dismay on my face, and while answering the phone, (which did not stop ringing) she motioned me to a stack of papers on a small table behind her desk.  Ah...the class lists. "But don't touch them!" she said, "They will change daily. Don't write the names in your gradebook (this was long before computers) unless you want to do a lot of erasing."

I was a bit confused as to why the lists would change, but after watching Sid in action I realized that it was a miracle that there were even temporary lists.  Students were moving in and moving out, adding band or choir or dropping out....and oh no....the 8th grade science teacher has taken a job at another school.  She answered each call with a calm and confident voice.  I finally backed quietly out of the office, making eye contact that I would come back later.

That was my introduction of how talented Sid was.  As the years came and went, Sid and I became good friends.  Her knowledge of the community and families was priceless.  Many times she would pull me aside with news about a student or student's family that would help me.  Johnny's dog was hit by a car and died last be aware; Susie's father lost his job; Jimmy's father was arrested for domestic violence; Cathy's grandma died.  The list would fill pages.  Her insight and knowledge of each of the students helped me and taught me.

I must get back to Sid's mischievous eyes.  The rest of this post will be times I had with Sid that bring smiles and joy to me.  Times I remember.....

I remember the tasty food Sid would bring to the office...sometimes daily...and sharing her unique recipes.  The office would often smell of vegetable soup, fresh baked bread, coffee cake, pies or some new Greek recipe.  There were always eating utensils for people to have a snack. 

I remember Sid wanting to write a play with me about middle school life.  Of course, the center of action would be the office.  We made a list of all of the characters and even picked out actors for each.  Sid was going to be played by Meryl Streep...or maybe Lucille Ball.  Bea Arthur would play Rae.  Sid looked at me and said, "Patty Duke or Sissy Spacek can be you because you are short."  I told her later that maybe Shirley McClaine would be a good choice for me, but Sid thought that our art teacher, Pottsy would be a better fit for Shirley. We had characters like the Mop Man (the man who came monthly to sell mop supplies...he had a deep voice and nice hair)...played by Lee Marvin.  Billy Bob Thornton would be one of our custodians.  Our choir director, Stephanie would be played by Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore would play the librarian, Carol Pizor.  Anthony Hopkins would be the person in charge of food services, preparing meals for the cafeteria. (We tried to keep the gender of our characters the same as the staff...but thought Anthony would be a good touch for meal preparation.)  Morgan Freeman would play one of the English teachers where students would be in rapt attention in his class.  Jim Carey would play an inept teacher.
Sid and Rae...or Meryl and Bea

The list of characters grew.  Sid kept the list under her desk calendar and would pull it out when another character came to her.  We did this for years, so some of the characters had to retire or move to different schools.

Sid thought that while there would be action in the office... the background (the hallway and the gym, both could be seen from the office window)  would be would have various subplots.  An example would be this: 
Enter newspaper reporter to cover the student council food drive.  In the background music from the gym can be heard.  It is the aerobic warm down up0ed of Barry Manilow..."I Write the Songs."  As the reporter asks questions there are constant interruptions....Jim  Carey bringing down a student because he threw the teacher's stapler out the call that lunch would be five minutes late because the food truck got a flat tire...a student comes in stating he is sick (Sid takes his temperature and sends him back to class)....students are carrying various stage sets down the hall (not quietly and dropping props such as swords and billy clubs....The Pirates of Penzance actors playing their parts as they return to the music room.

We had so many scenarios.  I could write many posts about them.  But what I remember most is how we laughed when we thought of a new scene.  Why we never wrote these down...I don't know.  Maybe it would have taken the fun away...maybe it would have become a chore and we would lose the spontaneous plots.  So now I am combing my memory...and laughing at the fun times we had.

I must stop here...there are more I think I will have to write more posts about Sid.  She was one of those 'One of a Kind' my mother, Maxine and my dear friend Rae.  Yes, I have been so fortunate to have these people in my life. But it is so difficult when I (we) lose another special person.  I miss their voices, laughs and wit...but I am so thankful to have the memories.