Freeman

ARTICLE

Some reflections on the problem of becoming an individual, as revealed in... A Childs Diary

MAY 01, 1959 by ROSE GRIECO

In addition to free-lance writing, Miss Grieco teaches PTA-sponsored dancing and creative dramatics classes and works with the Recrea­tion Department of Montclair, New Jersey.

MONDAY:

Mommy looks awfully tired to­night. She really had a time, put­ting on a play for the Brownies. She worked on it for weeks, and today they finally gave it. Every­body said it was nice, and that Mommy was doing a wonderful job with the Brownies. I’m glad because she spends so much time with them… and talking on the telephone with their mothers, and always trying to find out interest­ing things for them to do.

On account of the play, we had scrambled eggs again tonight, and Daddy said something about it… and how he thought a man who worked all day certainly ought to get something better than scrambled eggs when he came home… and he was getting aw­fully tired of it… and if she couldn’t cook her family a decent dinner, then he’d eat in New York before he came home. Then Mommy started to tell him about the Brownies, and Daddy yelled out. “Your Brownies be damned!” And Mommy gasped because Daddy doesn’t use that kind of language. And then they were quiet for the rest of the night.

I hate it when they’re quiet.

I was hoping I could start read­ing Little Women tonight… but with Mommy and Daddy so quiet, I can’t think about anything else. I’ll close now because I want to go to bed. Maybe when I fall asleep, I’ll forget how quiet it is.

TUESDAY:

I wish I could go to the library today with my best friend, Nancy. But we can’t because today is Girls’ Day after school. Last week, when I tried not going to Girls’ Day, Miss Markey, my teacher, called up Mommy and told her I needed more exercise and I should play more with the other children. So Mommy made me promise I’d go to Girls’ Day and play games because Miss Markey was so nice to take a special interest in me. We’ll have to wait till some Tues­day when it rains and then Nancy and I can go to the library. It’s a wonderful place, our library…just hundreds and thousands of books and each book is a different world… and we can take out as many books as we like…all at the same time. Imagine carrying home five different worlds under your arm.

It was bacon-and-eggs tonight and Daddy didn’t say anything at all. Mommy explained about the meeting she had for the card party so the PTA could buy new draperies for the activities room to make it more cheerful for the Brownies and Scouts when they meet. But Daddy didn’t say a word. He finished eating and went to his paper. And it got quiet again.

After a while I couldn’t stand the quiet, so I went over and sat on the stool beside Daddy’s chair and put my head on his knee. He stopped reading the paper and put his hand on my cheek. When he did that, it felt like the whole world was warm and pink. I put my hand over his, and I didn’t mind the quiet anymore. There was something inside me I wanted to say to Daddy, but I wasn’t sure just what it was… so instead, I held his hand on my cheek… and the quiet changed. It wasn’t black anymore.

Then Mommy called me into the kitchen to dry the dishes because she had to go to a Board Meeting. When she said she was going to the Board Meeting, she looked at Daddy as if waiting for him to say something… but he didn’t. When she kissed me good night, she looked so pretty in her new spring hat… then she went out without saying anything to Daddy. I wish she had at least said good night to him. I guess Daddy doesn’t understand how hard Mommy works at school. That’s why she can’t cook us a good dinner at night. Why, if she ever dropped out of the PTA, I think the whole thing would col­lapse… because she’s over at school almost every day, for one thing or another… and what would happen to the school with­out the PTA?

One time Daddy said that when he was a boy, his mother didn’t belong to any PTA and he didn’t notice anybody going to the dogs because of it… and Mommy ex­plained to him that times have changed and life isn’t that simple anymore. And Daddy said it would be a helluva lot simpler if all those women would go on home and just look after their own little family. I never saw Mommy look so much like she didn’t know what to say… after Daddy said that. And be­cause she didn’t know what to say, she cried. So I guess tonight when Mommy said she was going to the Board Meeting, maybe Daddy thought she would cry again… and so he didn’t say anything.

When I finished drying the dishes, I thought maybe I’d start reading Little Women. But Daddy asked me if I wanted to play chess with him, and it has been so long since we played a game together, that I just ran to get it. I love playing with Daddy… he talks to me softer than anybody in the world… and he never tells me what’s good for me… he just makes me happy. I’m so sick of doing things with children my own age… they’re all alike, mostly. But there’s nobody in the whole wide world like Daddy, and even though he isn’t in my “age-group” whenever I’m with him, I feel as though I’m half way to Heaven.

We played for an hour and a half. Daddy smoked his pipe, and the smell that filled the room was just wonderful. I wonder why Mommy doesn’t like it. Then I had my bath and when I yelled out good night to Daddy, he came upstairs and we said our prayers together. When we finished, he didn’t go back downstairs but satin the chair next to my bed like he does when I’m sick. It was nice to see his face the last thing be­fore I closed my eyes.

WEDNESDAY:

I love Wednesdays because Wednesday is piano lessons. When I go to Miss Danke’s all by myself with nobody around me to bother me with questions and silly talk about boys, I feel just like skip­ping. Because when I walk alone I get a chance to talk to myself. There are always so many things to do with Scouts and Girls’ Day and Dancing School that I hardly ever get a chance to talk to my­self. I don’t think grownups know much about us eleven-year-olds, because if they did, they’d leave us alone a little more.

Sometimes I feel sad when I see how hard they work for us… especially Mommy. I’d like it so much better if Daddy got a good dinner instead, but I don’t think I could make Mommy understand. And it is nice when my teacher or the principal says to me, “Your mother is a wonderful woman. I don’t know what we’d do without her.” Only I’d rather hear Daddy say it.

Anyway, I like Miss Danke be­cause she never asks me which music I want to learn, like Mary Lou’s teacher does. Miss Danke tells me. And the music she tells me I have to practice touches something inside me that nothing else in the world does. That’s why I like her… because I wouldn’t know which music could tell me things and which couldn’t. But she knows… and even though she makes me practice scales, I don’t mind. Because after the scales, she lets me play the piece of Beethoven… that sounds like the quiet of Mommy and Daddy after we have scrambled eggs for dinner and neither one knows what to say. Maybe next time we have that kind of quiet, I’ll play this sad music of Beethoven… and the quiet won’t be only sad, but beau­tiful… because maybe it’s the sad quiet that everybody has and Beethoven found out about it.

THURSDAY:

Nancy and I thought we might go to the library today, but we can’t because Mrs. Thorpe, who has a housekeeper to do all her housework, needed something to fill in her time, I guess, so she organized what she calls a Cul­tural Workshop at school… and today she’s bringing some woman who’s going to talk on music ap­preciation and we all have to go. We don’t really have to go… I mean nobody will put us in jail if we don’t, only our teacher told us that after all the time and effort Mrs. Thorpe is giving to the school, it would be a shame indeed if we didn’t cooperate and listen to her guest… who was coming out from New York espe­cially to talk to us. So because Mrs. Thorpe is a nice woman and tries to do things for us to keep us “occupied,” we’ll go.

Later: Mommy helped supervise the children during the talk on music appreciation because to tell the truth, most of the children didn’t seem to really care if music is appreciated.

We got home in time for Mommy to cook a steak and heat some French fries and frozen peas. She bought a cheese cake on our way home because she knows both Daddy and I love it. Daddy en­joyed the steak and said so. Mommy smiled and they began to talk… nothing very impor­tant… just nice talk, like some of Chopin’s happy music.

As I got into bed, the sound of their voices warmed up the house. I didn’t read Little Women again because I got so tired listen­ing to the lady tell us all the things we should listen for in music… when really, I wanted to be at the library… that I went right to bed after drying the dishes.

FRIDAY:

Today was Dancing School party. I hate Dancing School because I can’t stand it for boys to put their arms around me. Daddy is the only man I want to hold me… and his brother, my Uncle Jim. Because when they hold me, I know that nothing in the world can harm me. But with the sixth grade boys, it’s different. I didn’t want to go to Dancing School. I wanted to stay with the class in Creative Dancing because there we did dances to match the music that talked to us. But every­body else goes to Miss Purdy’s Dancing School, except Joe Blake… and when I said I didn’t want to go, Mommy had a “conference” with my teacher about it, and I heard Miss Markey use funny words like “antisocial behavior” and it frightened me. And because I wanted her to stop using those ugly words, I said all right, I’d go. And Mommy looked so relieved that it was worth it. And Miss Markey patted my head and said to Mommy that maybe if they cut my braids, it might help me grow out of my “child’s world.” I said nobody was going to cut my hair until I said so… (I’ve loved my long hair ever since Daddy told me the story of Rapunzel and com­pared me with the lovely maiden) and that if they cut my hair before I said so, I’d go up to the Pond and drown myself. Miss Markey looked at Mommy for a long time, then she said two more ugly words, "emotionally disturbed.” Anyway, I went to Dancing School so Mom­my wouldn’t have Miss Markey using all those odd words about me… and today was the last day of the term… so Mrs. Burns, who hasn’t “done anything for the children” yet, decided to have us all over to her house for a party after class.

There were quite a few mothers on Mrs. Burns’ committee to see that we all had a good time. And since the party went right on till after six o’clock, I wondered how many of their husbands were getting scrambled eggs for dinner. When I saw all of Mrs. Burns’ beautiful furniture in soft pretty colors, I think I knew why she hadn’t “done anything for the children."

Tom Smithers, who always likes to make people laugh, somehow managed to drop his chocolate ice cream on Mrs. Burns’ beautiful white circular couch. All the boys laughed and the girls squealed at the top of their lungs. Mrs. Burns came into the room just as Tom Smithers was yelling, “Hey… look at my black-and-white soda.” And the boys laughed some more. I looked at Mrs. Burns… and her lips were quivering. I don’t know about anybody else, but I could see just as plain as daylight the tears that were behind Mrs. Burns’ eyes. She didn’t dare let them fall… because the other mothers were there, I guess. On our way out, I watched Tom Smithers tell Mrs. Burns what a good time he had and how sorry he was about her couch. And though he said it seriously, I could tell he was laughing.

I tried to start Little Women tonight, but I couldn’t because I kept seeing Mrs. Burns’ trembling lips and the tears that didn’t come out.

SATURDAY:

Today we packed a lunch and Mommy is taking our Scout Troop down into the Glen for a picnic. I love the Glen. It’s so wild and mysterious… and Joe Blake told me the violets are growing like crazy down there. He knows…because he played hookey from school yesterday. When I asked him what he did, he said he walked the railroad tracks for a while and then he went into the Glen… all by himself. He told me about the violets because he knows I love them. He said he didn’t think of it yesterday, but next Tuesday, when he plays hookey again, he’ll pick some for me. Joe is the “problem boy” in the sixth grade. But I like him better than anybody in the class, except Nancy. He’s the only one who refused to go to Dancing School and got away with it. There are six children in his family. It must be nice to go home to a house full of sisters and brothers.

Miss Markey sent Joe to see the school psychologist, on account of the way he likes to play hookey. Joe said he likes to go see the school psychologist because he gets a kick out of the way Dr. Hey­ward looks at him. He said he’ll probably have to go see him again next Wednesday if he plays hookey on Tuesday. One day Miss Markey told the class we should be kind to Joe because he’s “maladjusted.” Anyway, Joe still gets the best marks in the class, maladjusted and all, so I guess it can’t be as bad as Miss Markey makes it sound.

About the picnic today, Mommy said it was very strange that I wanted to go into the Glen last Sunday afternoon by myself, but that I didn’t have a good time with the Scout Troop today. I couldn’t help wandering off among the trees, away from the noise and talk of fifteen Girl Scouts, and Mommy kept telling me to stay with the crowd. I don’t think she understands that when you’re alone in the Glen and the only sounds you hear are the birds and the brook and you take off your shoes and run through the violets, it’s like the beginning of the world. I think maybe next Tues­day I’ll play hookey with Joe Blake.

The only trouble is if I play hookey, then I’ll be a problem child, too. I don’t mind at all be­ing a problem child if it means being like Joe Blake. Only it would hurt Mommy so… because she’s president of the PTA. Joe doesn’t have to worry because his mother doesn’t even belong to the PTA. She told Mommy over the tele­phone that the only organization she belongs to is her family. Mommy couldn’t make it out… but when she told Daddy about it, he said somebody ought to pin a gold medal on Mrs. Blake… and Mommy didn’t talk to him for the rest of the night. It was like the nights when we have scrambled eggs for dinner.

Tomorrow is Sunday and maybe in the afternoon when Daddy is having his nap and Mommy is talking on the telephone to one of her committees, I can sneak down into the Glen and pick violets. There’s nothing in this whole world I’d rather do in the spring than go down into the Glen and listen to the sounds while I pick violets.

Only it’s so hard to do… the way things are.


***

Ideas on Liberty

Selfishness

Oscar Wilde

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Un­selfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, and enjoys it.

Education

George Sampson

The well-meaning people who talk of education as if it were a substance distributable by coupon in large or small quantities never exhibit any understanding of the truth that you cannot teach anybody anything that he does not want to learn. If a pupil wants to learn, he is already half-way to learning before he is taught. If he does not want to learn, he cannot be taught, how­ever many years you add to his school life.

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May 1959

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