Excuse my absence! I guess I’m still a little traumatized from my recent trip to Rite-Aid and seeing Christmas stuff everywhere! I DIDN’T EVEN GET A CHANCE TO SAY GOOD-BYE TO HALLOWEEN! So we’re going to keep this belated Halloween party going with a magical wordsmith, M.L. Meyer! She never ceases to amaze me with not only her ability to write beautifully, but also to find a way to touch our hearts in ways the world has forgotten. So, with so much love and affection for my Jewish Mama, here is:
The sun was so bright this June morning that Mary Lou had to squint as she walked along Dorothy Avenue, in route to her Gramma Lucy’s house just a block away. She studied each crack on the sidewalk, avoiding the possibility of stepping on one, lest she “break her mothers back” which she was convinced could very well happen. Summer vacation was Mary Lou’s favorite time of year, as she had no school. She dreaded her studies, finding them immensely boring, especially after reaching forth grade last year where she encountered long division, which she believed could very well be the end of her life. She would much rather be climbing trees and reading Nancy Drew novels. Curiosities and dramatic mysteries were her playground. This is why she loved to spend time with her gramma Lucy. Together they would make up stories and play records, singing and dancing till they were breathless.
Halfway to grandma Lucy’s, across the Poplar lined street, lived a witch named Etta, and Mary Lou was always very careful as she walked past. Her house was covered with ivy like a fisherman’s net and weeping willow trees stood guard like soldiers with arms ready to entangle any intruder. Thoughts of being kidnapped filled Mary Lou’s mind as she envisioned being forced to drink a steamy concoction made from bat wings and spider hair, — or worse yet, being thrown into a big boiling cauldron, never to be found again! Mary Lou had read tales of witches and was convinced, along with her friends, Tamera Sue and Sally, that Etta was a real witch, no question about it. Witch Etta fit all the descriptions they had seen in picture books. Always in black, her hunched over posture masked her height causing her arms to dangle long enough to reach a little girls neck with ease. Her nose projected beyond her footsteps diminishing her eyes to poppy seeds. Sometimes she would wave and offer a lipless grin, speaking in strange mumbled words. On many a full moon, tormented screams were said to be heard as pets scampered to hide under beds, shivering for fear! Street lights would flicker and ghostly images were silhouetted upon shade-drawn windows.
As Mary Lou continued her trek this day, witch Etta stood on her front porch, slowly brushing her long steel-wool hair in the sun. Mary Lou suddenly felt her throat tighten, seeing her spindly fingers wrapped around the handle of her hairbrush. She could feel witch Etta’s burning stare as her heart raced faster and faster, until she frantically sprinted safely to the refuge of Gramma Lucy’s lace-lined living room.
Trembling fear mixed with obsessive curiosity became a constant part of Mary Lou’s summer that year. Even though her days were filled with board games, softball and roller skating, once a day she visited Gramma Lucy’s and passed by witch Etta’s, which would stir her fear mixed curiosity even deeper.
Soon it was fall and time for fifth grade to begin. She dreaded the boredom but most of all knew that long division awaited her and she was no more astute. Her tears flowed mellow-dramatically as she whaled before her parents, insisting that if she had to look at math again she may easily shrivel up and die! But to no avail, — despite all pleadings, her parents insisted she would succeed if she put her mind to it.
Mary Lou’s first day of 5th grade had arrived. She walked methodically to school wearing her new saddle shoes and sterile white ankle socks. Entering her classroom, Mrs. Walton assigned her a desk in the front row because she was a short girl compared to most. All of her books fit precisely within a squeaky flip-top desk, with several freshly sharpened #2 pencils arranged neatly in a row.
A week after school began, Mrs. Walton stood at the chalkboard and excitedly announced that she had a special surprise.
“Due to our large number of students this year we are extremely fortunate to have a classroom helper join us. Students, please welcome, Doctor Marietta Wiesel.”
The students rose, as was the rule, and curiously watched a bent over, grey-haired woman, dressed in black enter the classroom. Mary Lou rubbed her eyes in disbelief.
“It is a great honor to have such a renowned Polish scientist in our class,” Mrs. Walton continued. “Doctor Wiesel is especially excited to help us discover our mathematic skills this year.”