If you know me at all, you have probably heard me mention living in Iceland a few times—okay, maybe thousands of times. I loved living there. As a 9-year-old living in a Chicago suburb, I was not too thrilled when it was listed along with Hawaii and one other state as places we could have ended up. My sisters and I voted for Hawaii…who wouldn’t? Then it was taken off the list. So, we asked that our father be stationed at the state that I cannot remember now. Well…Dad’s orders came in and it was to Iceland we went.
If you know me at all, you probably remember that I quite often acted up in school. Quietly sitting at my desk and studying studiously did not fit with my personality. Frequently during sixth grade when other students were studying quietly or listening to the teacher’s lecture, I would be making noises, talking to my neighbors (that were admirably trying to get me to shut up so they could study), or not even paying the tiniest bit of attention to the instructor. As such, Mr. Kirkstein sent me out into the hall to spend much of each school day outside of the classroom. He also “volun-told” me to work in the library, visit the school counselor (who took me to the bowling alley for ice cream), or be the lunchroom monitor. Was it odd that I never turned in a single name? I spent very little time in the classroom that year…except when I played Johnny Appleseed in our sixth-grade play.
Iceland—as the name suggest—can be a little cool at times. During the winter, all the kids brought their big parka-type coats and scarves and boots. Along the hall outside each classroom hung hooks upon which the children rested their outerwear while the day progressed in the warmth provided by geothermal heating—Iceland is one of the greenest energy-producing nations in the world, and this was even back in the 1980s.
The teacher sent me out into the hall a lot. What was I to do? I had no neighbors to speak with. I had no books to read—mind you I never read texts, only fiction books. One day as I was looking around for something to occupy my time, flipping the little rabbit and snowflake reflectors hanging from my classmates’ coats, a line of first graders walked by on their way to lunch. Because I had been “assigned” as a lunchroom monitor, I knew that the second graders would soon be making the trek down the long hall toward the cafeteria. This was perfect.
Most of the coats and snowsuits hanging on the hooks were long, stretching all the way to the floor. A person could hide behind them unseen. Perhaps that person could also peak around the edge of a coat to see but be unseen. And that is exactly what I did.
Even with my hearing muffled by the layers of coats and snowsuits, I heard the excited chatter of the younger children shuffling down the hall. Their teacher tried to hush them. But it was lunch time with recess promised afterwards. Their noise could not be contained.
Our class was the closest to the corner around which the line would need to go to get to the cafeteria. The kindergarteners went first to lunch, and their class was all the way at the end of the long hall. Then the first grade, second, and on up to our class. K-6 at A.T. Mahan Elementary School. And since the teacher was leading the line, she or he would be around the corner before the rest of the trailing students.
And yes, I did do what you are thinking. I would jump out and growl or roar or scream at the kids at the end of the line. They would all shriek and take off around the corner. What had been an orderly line quickly melted into a chaotic free-for-all mad dash to get away from the creature beneath the coats. By the time the teacher wrangled the kids back into a line and got them quieted down, I had moved to another set of coats to hide, waiting for the third graders to come by.
This went on all winter. When the kids started watching the coats, expecting me to jump out at them, I decided to move my hiding place across the hall under those coats. Fresh new screams of terror echoes down the hall, kids running because some monster was trying to rip them to shreds.
When they watched both sides, I moved deeper down the hall under the fifth graders’ coats or even the fourth graders’ winter gear. Those poor kids never knew when or where I would leap out at them. And the oddest thing is I do not remember getting in trouble once by Mr. Kirkstein or any other teacher for my shenanigans. I imagine the parents had no idea what their kids would tell them at night when they got home. With a little ingenuity, I turned what my teacher had meant as punishment into entertainment. My ardent hope is that none of those kids had to have therapy because they couldn’t convince their parents that the coats were coming alive and attacking them.
Iceland was awesome!