Mom was determined that my sister April and I would learn everything there was to know about the birds and the bees at home. She wasn’t opposed to their teaching it at school. She just doubted the expertise of my home economics and human development teacher, Miss Burk.
“That woman couldn’t mate socks,” Mom said to Dad at their first parent-teacher conference.
After two years in Miss Burk’s class, you came away with the firm belief that the key to a successful marriage is a light and flaky biscuit.
While Miss Burk could work herself into a panting sweat discussing the ingredients of a blueberry muffin, anything pertaining to human contact turned her into a frozen fish stick. Mom, on the other hand, a registered nurse, worked in a hospital. She knows anatomy like Jack Kevorkian knows suicide methods.
“Okay,” Mom would say, as she brushed my hair into a ponytail, “this is how and why the ovaries function.”
Then Mom would get into a rousing description of females and their monthly cycles while she slicked my hair back so tightly my eyes pulled to slits. I’d have to feel my way to the school bus and had a receding hairline by age 12.
In all fairness to Miss Burk, she was a great teacher. But we girls sat around every recess and tried to imagine what she might look like if she would take off her two-inch thick glasses, let down her hair from its tight knot and wear outfits in a color other than gray.
“What Miss Burk needs is a man,” Mom announced as she washed, rinsed and dried a plate, then passed it to me to put in the dishwasher.
A woman could be dangling from a cliff by a bobby pin, and Mom’s solution was to find her a date.
“What about your American history teacher?” Mom asked. “He’s single, isn’t he?”
It was common knowledge that the history teacher and the French teacher had been conjugating verbs in the language lab during study hall. Besides, I had my doubts about him. No matter what we were studying, Mr. Hampton always managed to steer the topic toward you-know-what.
“As you can plainly see,” he would say, tracing the map with his pointer, “the land obtained during the Louisiana Purchase forms the perfect silhouette of a young woman wearing a bikini.”
“Then what’s that?” Edwardo Flores asked, pointing to the Mississippi River.
“One of her straps has come untied,” Mr. Hampton answered, rubbing his chin in consideration.
While I respected Mom’s values, I had been toying with the notion that, in Miss Burk’s case, being alone might actually be better than dating Mr. Hampton.
“He’s going out with the French teacher,” I told Mom.
“Humm,” she said, biting her lip. “French women are tough competition.”
“And,” I added, “he TALKS about her all the time.”
In Mom’s world, there was nothing lower than a man who talked about his love life in public. According to Mom, if a man’s doing things right, he won’t have time to talk about it.
Since Dad not only never discussed their love life, and left the room in a blue streak whenever the subject came up, April and I held him in the utmost esteem.
“Now THERE’S information you won’t find in a textbook,” Dad mumbled as he fine-tuned the tinfoil on the TV’s rabbit ears.
As far as April and I were concerned, that was the best kind of schooling.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane. Post your comment on this column at www.valleytowncrier.com.