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Spearmint grows like crazy

Posted August 15th, 2017 at 09:46 AM by Sylvano the Wasabus
I was at work today when my grade seven teacher walked in. Iíll call him Mr. Smith, thought that isnít really his name. Of course Mr. Smith remembered me, for we had some difficulties. Heís only about four foot eleven and even in grade seven he was one of the shortest people in the class. He always had a chip on his shoulder and really I canít blame him. It must have been a struggle to keep control over a bunch of young people who were just awakening to who they were and what they could accomplish, especially when they were all taller than him.

I was a problem student. Everything was too easy for me and I had a wicked sense of humour so I was constantly whispering to those around me and cracking them up. I was selfish and unaware- I enjoyed making others laugh and didnít realize how disruptive it was. Mr. Smith responded by sitting me at the back amongst the fish tanks.

Smith was a plant nut. His room was filled with small trees, shrubs, flowers and fish tanks. I too was and am a plant nut. I spent many happy hours in that class looking at the fish, enjoying the plants and looking out the window while the class continued their lessons. I was okay with that. Perhaps it was supposed to be a punishment?

I guess I was kind of a feral child. Iíd started delivering newspapers when I was seven and before that had sold pens and produce door to door. I was used to being outside and on my own. My father was unreasonably strict so I avoided him as much as possible which meant I was always outside.

Somehow I had the idea that rules didnít apply to me. I understood the concept of rules. But there are so many situations that the rules donít cover. It was not uncommon for me to get up and leave Mr. Smithís class to go home to get something. Iíd be gone about twenty-five minutes. I never asked his permission and he never once asked where I was going.

Several times he gave the entire class detentions- we had to stay in during recess- because some students were talking. I lived for recess. I needed to get outside and move. The rest of the class was required to sit silently at their desk. I remember how surprised he was when I stood up and got my coat.
ďWhere are you going?Ē he asked, on the edge of anger.
ďI wasnít talking,Ē I explained. ďIím not going to be punished for what others did.Ē
It wasnít a discussion- I was doing what I was doing and as far as I was concerned no one was going to stop me. He didnít even try. Looking back, it must have pained him. I was easily a head taller than he was but I was not about size and intimidation. I was about integrity.

Then there was the incident with the curtains and the class room helpers. He posted a list detailing which jobs students were to help with. Everyone was on the list. I was a curtain closer. We were going to see a film. There were six curtain closers because it was difficult because of all the plants in the window. The other kids were fast and by the time I was standing up the job was done, so I sat back down. He flipped.

I couldnít understand the problem. The job was finished. What could I have helped with? Looking back, I suppose he was just boiling over- the straw that broke the camelís back sort of thing. He said he wanted to punish me for not helping. Really he just wanted to control me, to break me as one does a wild horse.

I remember him grabbing me by the collar one time in a threatening way. I was amused- no one had ever done that to me before. He looked at me and talked in a threatening way. I really was not of his world- I was fascinated by his strange behaviour and not intimidated in the least. My reaction ruined his threat and he quickly let me go.

So here I am at work, about forty something years later and in he walks. I never ever thought of him in a negative way. I had enough problems at home with my own father- Mr. Smithís behaviour was gentle in comparison.

He must have been in his seventies. His hair was only a little grey, and I suppose he was a little heavier. He asked how I was, inquired after my siblings and parents by name, which was impressive. I had the feeling that he was trying to intimidate me or show off. I asked after his children by name and he was really shocked.

How did I know his children? Iím sure vision of stalkers danced in his head. Heíd shown us slides of his garden once, and his children had been in the slides, and heíd mentioned their names and Iíd never forgotten.

I told him I still had the spearmint plants that heíd given out to kids interested in gardening. Even after moving seven times since grade seven.

It seemed that naming his children and talking about the mint put him over the edge- last straw on a camelís back sort of thing. He left. I got the distinct impression that he didnít like me.

I realized then that he probably had never liked me; perhaps had even thought of me as a nemesis. Iíd been blissfully unaware of course. But older and a little wiser now I could see it.

Heíd been trying to control the encounter. Iíd resorted to my feral ways, ignored his manipulative competitiveness and was happy to talk about gardening. Forty years later, nothing has changed.
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