31 Oliver Bascom
It is a mystery how I grew to be such a tall girl, but I learned at an early age to cope with my size by trying to be as unremarkable as possible. At school, I wore drab colors and low heel shoes. I always chose a seat in the back of the room, never raised my hand in class and with my head down and shoulders stooped, I virtually slouched my way through junior high school.
When I was 16, we moved to a small town. I was relatively happy in my new school although still very self-conscious about my height. Our teachers were caring and conscientious , and I especially liked the old maid English teacher because she loved to discuss Greek mythology, and she always cried when she read poetry to us. The first day of classes in my senior year, however, the school was abuzz with the news that the old maid had left to get married and that we were going to have a new English teacher, Oliver Bascom.
Oliver Bascom! He had to be a close relative of Mr. Peepers with a name like that! My girlfriends and I doubled over with laughter as we collaborated in conjuring up visions of a short, bald, skinny, prune-faced Caspar Milquetoast wearing horn rimmed glasses and plaid pants. The situation wasn't really funny because we were going to have to endure this man for the entire year. As we lethargically made our way to class, each of us determined silently to find a seat as far back in the room as possible.
We arrived just before the tardy bell, opened the door and there, in front of the blackboard, descended directly from Mount Olympus, stood Adonis. He was tall and young and handsome and had the classic chiseled features of a Greek statue.
What ensued was sheer pandemonium , a melee of seventeen-year-old girls, flying elbows and feet, scrambling to get to seats in the front of the room. With my long legs and arms, I managed to secure the front row center desk.
I was desperate to make a good impression on my new teacher, but kept quiet because I didn't have anything interesting to say. The day that directions were given for our first major writing assignment, I arrived late to class. A friend later gave me the guidelines and I thought I understood them. I worked the entire weekend on the essay, turned it in on time and waited anxiously for Mr. Bascom's evaluation.
After three or four days, he arrived in class bearing a stack of the corrected papers, which he put on the desk in two piles.
I've selected the ten best essays for class comment and discussion, he said.
Twenty minutes later, my heart sank when he got to the last composition in the pile, and I realized that mine had not made the top ten. Oh, where to hide? Why had I ever chosen the most exposed desk in the room?
These are all outstanding efforts, Mr. Bascom continued, "however, I am now going to read you the most successful of all, a composition which is completely different from the rest and which is remarkable for its originality and creativity." He pulled a paper out of his briefcase and began to read. We all dropped our jaws as it dawned on us that I was the author of this unusual work.
I never told anyone that the reason my composition was so different was because I had totally misunderstood the assignment. Nevertheless, a different girl walked out of the classroom that day. I knew that I had a new set of standards to live up to and that anything was possible in the future.On my way to my next class, I could actually feel my spine stretch as I raised my head and straightened my shoulders.
(By Kathleen Pimentel)