Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dorothy Leaves Latin School

Paid another visit to Dorothy last night at her nursing home/rehab facility. No great change from last time, which is a bit of good and a bit of not so good.

[Dorothy near the time of the story hinted at in the title, perhaps 1940]

The good? She's still sharp as a tack and enjoys a nice chat with a visitor. Many stories passed back and forth (most of which were about family members and would require so much investment of time, on your part, before getting to the point of them, that they would give you about as much value as a checking account at Bank Of America, which is to say you'd hardly have any interest and your capital would be eaten away gradually until you finally end with less than you started, but I will relate one, after a bit.)

The bad? No upgrade in her, physically, so she's still confined to bed. She may have lost a pound or two, though it's hard to tell. But she wasn't really expecting to be up and running a marathon, so no more disappointment for her than was already in this situation. Her spirits are pretty good.

You have a lot to do with that, of course.

Once again, I was overwhelmed by the wonderful cards, letters, photos, drawings, and other thoughtful things sent to Dorothy by you fine folks. Listing all of you by name would seem to be the least I could do, but I feel it would end less than satisfactorily for some. A few items had no name on them, and I'm fairly certain the envelopes they came in somehow became lost in a general clean-up by a nurse or aide. Rest assured, though, that Dorothy is delighted with everything she's received. Her vision is not great, but the nurses read everything to her and she can see quite well enough to enjoy the many photos and drawings of cats. She can't write very well, between the vision problems and the arthritis, otherwise she'd no doubt send a few "thank you" notes herself. She feels quite the celebrity, from all the mail, and she asked me to be sure I expressed her heartfelt thanks for everything!

(If you'd like to send a card or letter or what-have-you, here's the address:

Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

If I've somehow lost you - thanks for getting this far without knowing what's going on! - more detail is HERE.)

So, I promised you a story. Here it is.

In Boston, there are a small number of schools that, while funded by the government and nominally open to all students, require passage of an entrance examination for a student to attend. The most prestigious of these is the Latin Academy.

Nowadays, it is one facility, for both male and female students, but during my school years, and Dorothy's, there were separate schools for boys and girls. I mention myself in this because both Dorothy and I passed the examinations for entrance, albeit 30 years apart, and we both went to our respective Latin schools. And I found out, last night, that our success and happiness while ensconced at those institutions was similar.

We both hated the place.

I've detailed my angst about the joint before, and if you want to read a whole bunch of kvetching about school, you could go HERE. This is Dorothy's tale, though, so I'll limit talk, here, about my stupid school years.

As I say, Dorothy truly hated the place. It wasn't because of a lack of smarts on her part, or because of a hatred of school in general. A few years following this story, Dorothy graduated college with a masters degree in education and she spent many years teaching. It was just Latin School itself she abhorred. She felt the other students were snooty and looked down at her (while not poor, Dorothy's family wasn't rich, either, and Latin School, at that time, did tend to attract more kids from well-to-do families, for whatever sociological reasons.) So, for the only time in her academic career, she disliked where she was and her grades suffered as a result.

She sorely wanted out. However, it was a prestigious achievement for an Irish-Catholic girl, of that day and age, to be able to attend such an old and august school, so she feared asking her parents for permission to transfer. Instead, she decided it best to take matters into her own hands and then tell them about it only after it was a fait accompli.

Dorothy steeled her nerves while riding the trolley to school, some 35 or 40 minutes from Roslindale to the part of Boston where Latin was located. She had planned her lies carefully. All that remained was to say them and hope they worked as she wished.

Upon arrival at school, she went to see the principal. When he inquired as to why she was there, Dorothy said that she and her parents had had a good long discussion last night and they had tearfully informed her that they didn't have the money to send her to college, so there seemed little use in her remaining in a college-prep school such as Girl's Latin. All things considered, they thought it best for Dorothy to transfer to her local high school, Roslindale High, to finish her education, gaining the sorts of skills needed for an office job or a future role as a homemaker.

Since Dorothy's grades at Latin weren't stellar, the principal didn't put up a big fight to convince her to stay. He asked her if she had a letter from her parents. Dorothy said she did, then made a big show out of searching through her book bag for it. She played at being distraught, maybe shed a tear or two, and told him she must have lost it on the trolley.

(At this point in the telling, Dorothy confessed admiration of her own theatrical skills and mused that maybe she should have pursued a career in acting.)

The principal bought it. He told her he'd get the ball rolling on her transfer.

A couple of days later, the papers were all signed and delivered. Dorothy was enrolled in Roslindale High. So, unbeknownst to her parents, she started attending classes there instead of at Latin.

It didn't take long for her folks to find out. One day, during recess or lunch, Dorothy was walking down the street with some of her new classmates when her father came driving by. Spotting Dorothy, he pulled over and asked her what the hell she was doing there in Roslindale at this time of day. Dorothy spilled the beans. She explained her hatred of her former school, and assured him she still had every intention of pursuing higher education. Luckily, her dad saw the sense in her actions (especially when Dorothy explained that, since Latin was such a tough school in comparison with Roslindale High, her grades, when transferred, were upped at least full step in most cases, pulling her from near the bottom at Latin to near the top at her new school.)

Brave girl.

I'll be visiting with Dorothy again, sometime soon, and I'll keep you up-to-date. Again, thanks so much for brightening her days with your mail. You've made us both happy.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Bruce Coltin said...

A spunky kid, who could have been an actress. She certainly had the looks.

Daryl said...

She's still got spunk!!

Jeni said...

Yes, she certainly was a beautiful young woman, as that photo shows. And I'd have to say that through her lifetime -as evidenced by the stories you have written here about her, Jim, she remained a beautiful woman, inside and out. Enjoy these visits with her and the gleaning of more stories about her past because -as we've seen before -she's really had a great life, hasn't she?

Michelle H. said...

That took guts and intelligence on her part to do what she did, especially at a time when kids were suppose to obey their parents unconditionally. A wonderful story!

Buck said...

Brave girl.

Most definitely. I'd have been black and blue all over had I tried something like that; "mortal fear" was a valid mode of parenting back in the '40s and '50s. DAMHIK.

And yes, Dorothy still is a brave girl.

The Broad said...

Much as I admire Dorothy for her 'fait accompli', it also says a lot for the wisdom of her parents that they saw sense! My though, what a beautiful girl/woman...

messymimi said...

Good for her!

Expat From Hell said...

So many ways to be encouraged by this story, Suldog. Dorothy is courageous and daring, and willing to take chances to get where she wants to go. Your ability to get this on paper from one who has seen the better chapters of her life unfold is also well worth the effort of visiting here. Bravo to you both. EFH

TechnoBabe said...

Times were so different. She was a spunky gal. And she maneuvered the principal at one school and her parents and funny thing, Dorothy knew what was best for her.

Maggie May said...

A really beautiful looking lady.
I think of her.......
Maggie X

Nuts in May

notactuallygod said...

Ballsy broad. I give her more credit for that stunt than myself for my own recent scheme-gone-right.

Barbara Shallue said...

That took a lot of guts on her part (and theatrical skill! Well done, Dorothy!) But she apparently also had wonderful parents. I'm not sure I would have been so understanding if that had been my daughter - shame on me! Thanks for sharing Dorothy with us and I'm glad our cards have brightened her days!

silly rabbit said...

What an act of independence! That took some guts to pull off... and survive! She truly is a beauty and I suspect it still shines through.

Red Hamster said...

Dorothy is amazing -- to take control of her own destiny at that age and in that time. A brave woman!

(loved the BofA analogy; one of your best parenthetical sentences)

SueAnn said...

Dorothy is so cool!! What a delightful and brave woman!!
Great story

Carolina said...

I can only agree with all your bloogle (lovely word) followers above: what a remarkable and beautiful woman :-)

Teacher's Pet said...

I've told Dorothy and I'll share it with you. She's beautiful inside and out. What assets those are....especially the 'inside' one. Seems to run in the family.
Have a good week and weekend, Jim.
Warmest smiles,

Shrinky said...

What a character, and very much more than just a pretty face (although she certainly is a beauty). I can see you come from excellent lineage!

lime said...

the gal has pluck and guts! that is not in anyway to suggest similarity to a chicken. i can just imagine the two of you sharing some laughs and bonding over your mutual hatred of boston latin. well, it seems you both turned out well so no harm no foul. glad all the cards and notes are giving her a lift. continued prayers for her comfort and ease.

Clare Dunn said...

Give her a hug from me when next you see her...

xoxoxo, cd