After the hymn that inaugurated the week we each were expected to stand and recite a verse from the Bible. I loathed this; some of the words in my Douay Rheims Bible were different from those in the King James version; I didn't like being the embodiment of this difference. Once, urged to mild rebelliousness by an older brother or sister, I recited the shortest verse in my Bible: "And Jesus wept," knowing that the verse was even shorter by one word in Miss Aughinbaugh's King James Bible: "Jesus wept." On another Monday, on a dare from a pal, I gathered the nerve to recite, without knowing if it was an accurate quote (we Catholics were not big on Bible-reading): "Jesus tied his ass to a tree and fled to Jerusalem." There was some muffled snickering as Miss Aughinbaugh quickly named the person behind me to stand and take his or her turn.
But, yes, I despised this weekly exercise -- not because I was insulted by Miss Aughinbaugh's effrontery, not because it was an offense against public school secularity, but because -- as the lone Catholic in that sixth-grade class's sea of Protestantism -- I perceived that, just when I was trying to fit in with the guys I thought were cool, this exercise unnecessarily accentuated a difference in me.
I admit to having felt, in 1963, a touch of schadenfreude when, thanks to the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair, such religiosity was banned in public schools. I had long left Mentone by then but when I read the news in The Detroit Free Press I smirkily wondered how Miss Aughinbaugh must have been offended by this Supreme Court-edicted comeuppance.
The comical image I kept of Miss Aughinbaugh eventually turned almost to affection. I recall how at Christmas-time and then again at Easter she brought for each member of her class a piece of her wonderful homemade fudge.
Then when, as an adult, I'd be back for a visit to my hometown, and I'd run into her at the Post Office, or see her eating a lonely meal in Teel's Restaurant, and she would ask to be reminded which of her former students I was, I would hope that she would not remember that I was one of those who hadn't paid attention to a damn thing she said.
Further, though I didn't appreciate it at the time, she was an excellent teacher, and I've wished I had paid attention to her, harboring regret that I reached adulthood without knowing proper grammar, without knowing when to punctuate (and with what), nor could I have diagrammed a sentence. I learned punctuation by studying Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems in an Army bunk in Germany; I learned some grammar by having my poor grammar pointed out to me (sometimes to my embarrassment), or by paying close attention to the sentences in the good literature for which I developed a taste.
Still, I don't feel confident today that I could explain what a split infinitive is, without thinking really hard, and I no doubt sometimes use 'lay' when I should use 'lie'.
Come to think of it, I've never known for sure if I'm getting anything right or not.
But I keep trying.