Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I took Latin in the ninth grade and loved it. I learned more about English by taking Latin than I did when I took three years of French later on. It was common for my class to begin with Latin, or possibly Spanish, and then to progress to the rigors of the regent's classes in high school. (Ninth grade in my school was still considered middle school.) Years later, when I began writing, I dipped into those memories to write this piece of fiction:

March 15th always reminds me of my Latin teacher, the gawky Mrs. Griswald. She would drape her bony body with bed sheets and flounce about the classroom giving her own melodramatic interpretation of Caesar’s doom, always ending with the foreboding, "BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH!" She fancied herself Sarah Bernhardt, yet she was hopelessly Lucille Ball. There she stood, arms stretched heavenward, waiting for a standing O, while the class sat there repulsed by the sight of her hairy pits.

Latin was not my choice. I wanted to take Spanish with all my friends, who thought that Spanish was an easy language. Only nerds took Latin, a dead language. But Grandmother had decreed that I should take Latin, and to insure I was learning I had to recite my lessons after each traditionally sedate family full-court weekly Sunday dinner. She positioned me in front of the library fireplace -- SHOULDERS BACK! EYES FORWARD! -- while she thumped cadence with her walking stick as I plodded through the declension of nouns and the conjugation of verbs. Amo, amas, amat. Servus, servi, servo, servum, servo.

I always wondered if Grandmother was fluent in Latin. I asked Mother but she didn’t know. If I had asked Grandmother, she probably would have smiled and said nothing. This was when I still possessed a healthy intimidation of authority, so I never tested her with mistakes. Instead, I was always prepared and, as a result, I was Mrs. Griswald’s prize student, the nerd of the nerds.


No comments:

Post a Comment