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Monday Memoir- I Stayed Home From School

Posted by Susan Dickman on Monday, August 7th, 2017 at 11:56am.

Sometimes, school was not an issue, but forced confinement was! It was summer when all 4 of us came down with scarlet fever! Visiting nurses nailed a quarantine sign on our front door. Seeing it was too much for my mother to cope with, ordered my brothers hospitalized..My sister miraculously had it for one day, and her symptoms disappeared! I was the only patient at home.  My friends would visit me through the three open dining room windows. There were pocket doors on two sides of the room with ropes tied across  so only visiting nurses, the doctor and my mother were allowed in. When it was over, my mother was told to burn everything I had touched, my clothes, toys, bedding.  
In grade school my brother Vic and I caught the mumps. My mother moved our beds into the dining room which became our shared sickbay. Doctor's home visits were futile. There was nothing they could do but let the disease run its course. We were out of shape with ugly swollen glands. We missed school for a month. When I got back to my classes,  most of the teachers were sympathetic, but when the math teacher gave a test, I flunked. That teacher gave me a D which I had never had before. Determined to wipe that off my record, I sought the help of with my classmates. Genevieve Carle and Stephanie Chopek. They both took comprehensive notes and shared them with me. My mother too, was very strong in math and after supper would help me work through everything I had missed. My next grade was an A. That teacher approached me saying, "How unusual, you went from a D to an A."  Her tone implied there was something to be suspicious about. I remained silent as I compared her to other teachers who had called me forward to discuss what I had missed.
One day when all of us were well, we stayed home from school. My folks alerted our teachers not to expect us. Dressed in our best, we headed out on a trolley car to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A friend of my father's who worked there, provided him with passes. Whistler's Mother officially called Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1 was on exhibit, all the way from France. I was  awed,  not only because of the painting but because it was  cordoned off with a heavy red velvet rope forming a large rectangle in front of it. At each corner a US. Marshall stood guard, in full uniform, holding rifles, their legs bound in patees. It was 1934.
      The painting became a symbol of the Depression,  It toured the USA, Franklin Roosevelt saw it with his mother in NYC.
A postage stamp was made in 1934, as well, and it was mentioned in the musical "Sing and Like it", of the same year. Whistler's  signature was a highly stylized  butterfly. My late brother in law, Joseph Gropper told of how he was rummaging through a junk shop one day and found a tiny painting with a butterfly signature. Covered with dust, he had it cleaned, authenticated and sold, making enough to open his first painting and frame shop. A graduate of the Boston Fine Arts School, and chosen Student of the Year, he owned an internationally renowned gallery on Brattle Street in Cambridge , The Gropper Gallery. His catalogues were highly respected  in the art world. Clients called and ordered over the phone. For instance, Mrs. Jacob Javits, whose husband was a liberal Republican. But I digress?  
Staying home from school can be devastating or delightful! When thumbing  through old paintings in junk shops or flea markets, look for the stylized butterfly. You will have found a Whistler!
Thank you Beth Finke for "Writing Out Loud". I thought I had dry eyes..but had to stop reading for the tears.
Larisa Bogach


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