Dear Ol’ Buge…

Well, on Friday Mom and Grandmommy and I went to the school to attend the kingergarten graduation extravaganza. The kingergarten and 1st grade classes got up on stage altogether and sang some songs and recited a poem. Here’s the gang…

Here’s an attempted zoom, I can’t hold the camera still enough to keep from getting a blurry shot…

When the kids first came out on the stage, the cameras, phones and iPads came out en masse to record the event. I took a couple pics and most of the parents got out of their seats and rushed up the aisles, crowded the stage while the kids seemed a bit thunderstruck by all the attention when they hadn’t actually done anything yet. Paparazzi…

This went on for a long time and looked (from my vantage point) exactly the same as scenes on television of paparazzi crowding red carpets and yelling out the names of celebs they want to glance in their direction. I started to wonder if the kingergarteners were gonna have an autograph session following the performance. Surely all this seeming adulation won’t have a lasting affect. Personally, I was a bit nervous because I just wanted the thing to go off without Sofia getting stage fright and breaking down. The reason I worry about this is because that’s what would have happened if it was me and did happen to me when I was in school. In many ways, I’ve never gotten over it and still do really badly with large groups and public speaking. Fortunately, the bug concentrated on her friend standing next to her and seemed relatively comfortable so the event went off without a hitch. The songs were silly (one was about having beans in your ears) and although the kids were attempting to recite the poem in unison, there was enough discordance to make it so that I could decipher nary a word of it. Here’s a post-extravaganza shot with friends…

I was happy and relieved afterward and as I walked home I remembered a similar event of my own youth. This might be a little lengthy so if you have a problem with long posts, stop here. First off, I attended a small rural K-12 school in one building in a small town in central NY. My senior class consisted of 24 kids, and almost all had been there the entire 13 years. It wasn’t until I was in college in KY that I became aware that kids had 300 and 400 in their senior classes. But such was our school and oddly enough, there were teachers who became fixtures of the institution and taught there for what seems like longer than is possible in one lifetime. One such teacher was Miss Kaut. Miss Kaut was a tall, stout, German lady who taught 8th grade. One remarkable thing about her was that she not only taught me and all my siblings (4 younger than me) and both my parents 20 years earlier, but she actually taught my aunts who were older than my father by a few years and they weren’t the first kids she had taught. Anyway, Miss Kaut had a reputation as a badass and a hurdle or roadblock that every student had to get past to graduate. We called her Buge (pronounced byooj) which was short for byooger which was a bastardization of the word booger. The origin came from the fact that she used to hock up what are known in the south as “hockers” (we called them clams when I was growing up) and magically form them into little pearl-sized beads on her tongue and then snatch them like pebbles with little kleenex that she carried with her everywhere. She was a hardass and in my first day of 8th grade homeroom she laid down the law by throwing a blackboard eraser a good 15 feet, smacking a kid (Pat O’Connor, I think) upside the head making a cloud of chalk dust rise from his newly disheveled coif. He had been whispering to a friend while Miss Kaut was talking. Anyway, every 8th grade class in the history of the school had an “operetta” at the end of the year. Miss Kaut wrote these and really all they were were a series of songs strung together with bits of dialog betwixt that didn’t really have much of a story. Of course Miss Kaut had started these in the 1930s or maybe even earlier and she had popular songs from then that she rotated but none were contemporary songs. Ours had “I’m looking over a four leafed clover” and “It’s a small world”… you get the idea. Miss Kaut’s one concession to the times (in my case 1972) was that everyone in the class could write down 3 songs they would want for the operetta’s finale. Supposedly, the song with the most requests would be the last song in the operetta. Now believe it or not, I was consumed with mischief at this age and about 5 friends and I (this would be 25% of the total class) got together and agreed to put the same 3 songs on our lists. They were “War Pigs”, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man”… all from the Black Sabbath album popular at the time. In our naivete, we thought that we had successfully rigged the system and that the finale of our operetta would be one of these three songs. It ended up that our lists were ignored and the song ended up being the apropos “we may never pass this way again” by Seals and Crofts. We were not happy. Anyway, I came to have fond memories of all the trouble we caused Miss Kaut for the remaining years there. Now, fast forward to when I was about 33 years old. My dad died and we had one of those awful catholic wakes. The casket was in the front of the room and a line formed to the left of it starting with my Mom, then my siblings in no particular order and I was the last in line. Each of us had our partners behind us and in my case that was my ex wife. There were lots of people and at one point Miss Kaut came in. She was probably in her late 80s or early 90s by this point and as I stood there, I thought that she must have taught almost everyone in the rooom. As she came down the line I watched as she expressed condolences to each of my siblings attempting to place each of their names… which must have been difficult considering the number of students that passed through her 8th grade class through the years. When she got to me, she grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes and thought. She was having trouble recalling my name. As she peered into my eyes, trying to summon a memory of me, I saw a flicker of recognition come across her face, she lit up and gave me what I consider one of greatest compliments I’ve ever received. She said, much to my ex’s dismay… aaah, you… you’re the devil. I was grieving but it did warm me a bit to realize that I had indeed stood out and was remembered by her in a manner that I would have liked to be remembered. She died some time after that and I was saddened to hear of it because as much as we “hated” her in school, she really did have a profound and mostly good influence on all of us. I’m sure others would disagree. That’s all I got today.

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8 Responses to “Dear Ol’ Buge…”

  1. meredith Says:

    you wicked boy you- I loved the story- it’s what makes us.
    My mother was a mean school teacher,loved by many,many students with many,many backgrounds.
    She was a big women and know for her aim with an eraser and her ability to stand on your foot with her highheels on -if you were sleeping in her class.
    She thought nothing of breaking up a fight or chasing you down if you were ducking her class.
    Anyway—great story you devil.

  2. gz Says:

    I met the head of Foundation at Art College after 25 years…ah, she said, if I don’t recognize a face, the eyes have it.

    She knew you all. A good teacher in that.

  3. ang Says:

    hahah very cool story….

  4. Peter Says:

    Lovely post Jim, let’s hope that there will always be a Miss Kaut or two appearing in schools, and eccentric teachers who live for hundreds of years and have their own curious wisdom. We had a Mrs Longbottom (She really did have that unfortunate surname!), who occasionally appeared at our school when a teacher was away. She managed to keep us absolutely silent and sitting at attention, through force of personality, rather than through actual physical violence, and I marvel at how she did it!

  5. Brenda Says:

    You might get a kick out of the write-up beside your blog at http://www.guidetoartschools.com/library/best-ceramics-blogs .

  6. M@ Says:

    Thank you, Jim. I think I threw up a little bit when you described the “pearl” of booger part.

    Ms. Kaut lives!

  7. Michele Says:

    i also saw the write up on the guide to art schools site that Brenda mentioned… i don’t think whoever puts that list together really reads any of the blogs!

  8. artistatexit0 Says:

    Nice story Jim…one wonders if the education system in our country would tolerate another Miss Kaut now. Hey, I had that Black Sabbath album too! Too bad she didn’t pick one of the songs!!

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