Thursday, February 10, 2011

FUNERAL FOR A TEXTBOOK

My freshman year of school was different from other years.  I had some good teachers that made strong impacts on my knowledge base.  I probably learned more in my freshman year than any other year of school.  Along with algebra, my science course that year fascinated me.  The history course was good but I had read history since I began reading and there wasn't a lot of things in that area that made my ears perk up.  Science was different. It seemed like at least once a week I was learning something that wowed me in one way or another.

Mr G was the teacher and he was a good one.  He never gave us the answers but instead gave us facts and made us think for ourselves what the outcome might be of a certain science experiment or logic.  This was what made it fun.  Even if you came to the wrong conclusion by the end of the experiment you knew where your thinking went wrong.  Mr. G taught class the way school is supposed to be taught.  School should not just make you memorize facts but should teach you how to think critically.  This was one of the best classes I ever encountered until my college years about learning to think.

Mr. G had a lot of help in teaching us to think.  The textbook we used that year was written in a manner that was intended to teach you to think as well as teach you about science and the implications it has on your life and the world around you.  It was a good text book.  It was easy to read and easy to understand.  It was a hard bound book with a blue and gray cover on it.  I think I must have taken that book home with me almost every day of my freshman year.

It was an old book.  It had been used for at least ten years it seems although I could be way off on that estimation.  The bindings on all the books were frayed.  Some of the covers on the books were tore off the cardboard binding.  My particular book that I had did not have a back to it.  These books had been used and used a lot.  Being so old of a textbook they were also becoming quickly outdated.

Science back in the mid seventies wasn't like the way I suppose science is today.  Today science moves quickly out dating itself from one week to the next.   I watch a lot of science television in order to try to keep up with all the changes that keep propelling us further into the future at a faster pace than ever before.  Back in the mid seventies science moved at a slower pace.  Science when I was a freshman was like watching an Saturn V rocket launch an Apollo mission to the moon.  Science today is like watching a Shuttle launch.  I was use to seeing the Saturn V launches which were very powerful but so big and slow that you had time to watch the launch and it took some time for the rocket to leave the atmosphere.  The first time I saw a Shuttle launch it happened so quick it was gone into the atmosphere before you could blink an eye it seemed.

The school district decided to retire the old science textbook after my freshman year and update them for the class that would follow me.  For Mr. G it seemed to be like losing an old friend.  It was the only science book he had taught out of since coming to our school.  He knew it frontwards and backwards.  He knew what chapter held what and the approximate page you could find the information on.  Only a preacher knows the Bible better then Mr. G knew that science book.

The last week of school Mr. G announced that we would give the old textbook a proper farewell.  Each of his five classes would hold a funeral and memorial service for the textbook on the final day of classes.  We held a lottery to see whose book would be the lucky one to represent all the books in our class.  My book did not win the lottery but a book was chosen to be the one.  Preparations were made.

Mr. G constructed a wooden cross for each of the classes.  That final day of class we met in the class room.  He held up the cross and the book and began some liturgy about how the book had become a friend to all of us over the last year of its life.  Then he told us to look out the window.  We were his third class of the day and outside the window already stood two crosses from the classes before us.  If there was any doubt in our minds that this teacher was actually going to bury a book the doubt immediately left.

He held up a purple marker.  Purple and silver were the school colors so we would "engrave" the cross in purple.  He wrote in two inch high letters R.I.P. across the middle of the cross then had us all line up to the left of his desk.  One by one we went up to the cross and wrote our initials on it in purple.  I simply wrote B.C. for me.  Then we all lined up and walked a processional up the hall, out the door and around to the back of the building.

When we arrived at the grave site we noticed that he had already dug the graves.  There were three empty holes waiting to be filled.  He made a short speech while holding the book and thanked it for giving us all knowledge that would stay with us the rest of our lives.  He then gently placed the book in the hole and covered it in dirt.  The final act was placing the cross just outside the grave area and hammering it into the ground.  Three crosses now stood to mark the passing of a great textbook.  We then went back into the building and waited for the bell to ring so we could get on with the last day of school.  As we left the room I think most of us took a last peek out the window to see our class cross standing proudly next to the other two.

Later that afternoon I went over to Ronnie's and suggested we take a bike ride up to the school.  My plan was simple.  This was such a strange experience that I had been a part of that day that I wanted something to remember it by.  We rode up to the school and walked around to the back of the building.

Where earlier in the day there had been five crosses there only stood three now.  Some of my fellow schoolmates had the same idea I had.  I walked over to the cross from my class and yanked it out of the ground.  I looked at it and saw my B.C. written on it in purple.  This would be a reminder of one of the best teachers I had in school as well as one of the most interesting classes I had.  I took the cross home and stuck it in my closet.  No need letting mom or dad see it.  They might think it was too strange of a thing to be done by a teacher of their child.

I held onto that cross to this day.  Now it resides in my basement among other keepsakes I have collected over the years.  It sits in a darkened corner of the basement with newspapers that have historical headlines. One thing it has that none of the other keepsakes have though are what it represents and two letters in purple.  B.C.

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