Get this. I was seated in the classroom already in session at the back. There was a card on the wall with the word "Civilization." I asked a girl sitting next to me what that word was for. She told me it's one of their new spelling words. I told her it seemed kind of tough. This must be a tough school. She said, "Not really. See, its root word is civil, then that ization is added onto it." Now this was a profound insight. I told her, "Wow. You're really smart."
The second structure was brand new. A nice brick regular school building built on base at Tachikawa. Everything brand spanking new. Floors had never been walked on. Books never read before. Flags in classrooms new. Everything new. But that didn't last long.
We moved and our new school was large and established. Except, again, little afterthought adjunct buildings attached as need demanded. This whole rest of the fifth grade was inside a Quonset hut. With a rough hewn wooden porch running the length and sturdy windows jutting outward. Our teacher was a French national and he was a total no-funny business personality.
I told him I didn't like math anymore. He asked why. I told him "Because I was happy to finally get off the whole multiplication thing and onto long division and that turns out to be all more multiplication." I told him I'd rather not continue along these lines. He asked me what I thought I might become. I told him I might become a cake maker. Because I was big on making cakes at the time. He asked me what would happen if I had to double a recipe for a cake, or divide one, suggesting mathematics will be useful then and I admitted defeat. "You got me."
He caught my lisp. He suggested the school can correct it. I was all for anything that got me out of class. So I ended up skipping off once a week while everyone else toiled and I went inside the larger school building into a room with a speech therapist who taught me two ways to acceptably thay my etheth tho that I don't thtick out tho much along with another kid who couldn't pronounce R's.
Then one day a storm worked up while we were in class. Within an hour or so the storm grew stronger, the sky darker, the wind more insistent, the temperature dropped, the rain heavier, the lightning and thunder louder and more interested than fearful we kept looking out the window to our playground beyond some incidental landscaping and the whole class became somewhat alarmed at the sight of sapling bent sideways, like this.
The gardeners give each tree a lot of attention. Everywhere that you go each tree is tended as if its a person. It's odd seeing all the pine trees in sight wrapped in straw mats and carefully bound up as with an obi. Then all that taken off later and burned as insect control. But the whole time the mats are tied on the trees through the winter look like they're wearing clothes. And now this tree is bent right over by wind. This is a serious storm.
But not so serious to have kept us from school. They did have weather service.
Then everything suddenly stopped, wham, dead stop. We were all relived. Instantly. The tree returned to its upright state. Everything was calmed. No bird or insect sounds. No wind. No rain. The sun shone.
"So you think the storm has ended?"
"Yes!" The whole class agreed. Duh. Obviously. It's done! It was perfectly quiet. Of course it was done. Great fun, exciting and everything, but we're all glad it's done. Very done.
The teacher said, "No. The storm is only halfway done. We are smack dab in the center of it. We are in the eye of the typhoon." Then he scribbled a series of large "O's" on the chalkboard showing an advancing typhoon as it moves over a spot. He told us the tree will bend in the opposite direction as the typhoon travels along and showed us that on the chalkboard. And sure enough the sky darkened again, the wind picked up quickly, the temperature dropped again, the tearing rain resumed and tree was bent dramatically in the opposite direction.
Actually, the tail end is a little bit stronger.
And I must say his explanation fascinated all of us. It made perfect sense. And just as we and tree survived the first onslaught so too survived the second. We knew exactly what to expect. This is exciting, actually. The teacher did an excellent job managing us. I'm certain that incident became a story he tells. A Quonset hut full of rowdy kids when a typhoon hits dead on? It must.
Things returned to normal and so did class.
Much later Mum told me that the teacher discussed with them holding me back on account of my physical development, my distaste for long division and my many stupid questions. I'm glad my parents disagreed with his assessment.
Because I would have really hated that. I earned that graduation. A fourth fifth grade school would be intolerable. Man, I'm glad my parents are cool. I dodged the bullet on that one.