Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Seven: "Rookie" (Pt.2)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 2nd Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

As my school relationships on my team deteriorate, I begin dating. Where does this unlikely courtship lead? And how does my horrible first school year culminate?

Wow! Someone Finds Me Attractive

Meanwhile back at the Kingdom Hall, I’d found a new family which I seemed to be fitting into very nicely. My studies with Mike had progressed along at almost a meteoric clip, so much so that I’d already joined the Theocratic Ministry School. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no paid clergy, and so they locally train their own at the weekly meetings conducting a school during which local students are coached in various public speaking techniques . Each student is assigned a four or five minute talk covering some biblical topic, but the student must also be certain to work on a particular public speaking technique such as their pitch, pace, and power. As a school teacher I found everything about this school fascinating and necessary, and already my first such talk had been very well-received.

I also found myself the object of attention by three single females, something I hadn’t been used to heretofore, but at 23 years old, 6 feet 1 inch tall and 185 pounds, I’d finally come to accept that I wasn’t entirely unattractive though my hairline was swiftly receding. Five years earlier my friends in high school had dubbed me as “The Most Likely To Go Bald By Thirty” and I was most certain not to disappoint them in their prophecy. My hairline had begun to recede at age 16 and the gray had started to appear at the temples at 18, so at 23 I was beginning to look distinguished. Already. And it did nothing to deter the eligible bachelorettes.

I was interested, yes, I must admit. I wanted what everyone else had. A home, a family. Couplehood. And there was only one way to achieve this . . . through marriage. I’d always known this, and so I ignored all other impulses, sexual and otherwise, and blindly forged onward.

Of the three, there was only one of these I was really interested in, the one who was not chasing me so much, the one who was playing it cool, the one I’d met earlier in Canada, Nancy. She’d moved out of her parent’s house on the south side of Jackson County and into her aunt & uncle’s house in Leslie after the convention, and so she’d since become a regular part of our congregation, and so I gotten to know her better. We seemed to be on the same wavelength. She was far more mature than her 18 years, as a matter of fact, I had her pegged at four years older than she really was, but it didn’t matter to me. My dad was 5 ½ years older than my mom, so the fact that I was 4 ¾ years older than Nancy was immaterial to me. It’s not like I was a senior in high school dating a 7th grader or something.

After I became a baptized witness at the Detroit circuit assembly in December of 1974, I asked her if we could begin dating, and she consented. This was a serious step, I knew, because Jehovah’s Witnesses did not date frivolously. Dating was reserved only for those who were contemplating marriage. I was halfway through my first year of teaching, a hellish year to be sure, but I was looking for roots, and Nancy appeared to be the one I wished to plant them with, and I liked the Leslie area north of Jackson. And so the courtship began.

A Beginning and An Ending

My personal life soared during 1975 while my professional life deteriorated. I had achieved control of my classroom, good ratings from my superiors in Charlotte, but a cold shoulder from my other two team members, and my principal couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Thrown into this mix came the unfortunate scare that all of us untenured teachers faced during the last quarter when we were all pink-slipped. The school board said that this was due to budgetary concerns for the fall term, and Mr. Honshell assured all of us we’d be rehired, but it did nothing to endear me to the Charlotte community which I’d come to find less than endearing already.

As time wore on through the last quarter, and as our courtship deepened to the point that I popped the question and Nancy and I had set a wedding date in August, we seriously discussed my leaving Charlotte and looking for a teaching job elsewhere, somewhere closer to home. I just hated the place, and nothing they could do for me there was going to make it any better. You can’t change a whole community, and I didn’t like anything about it. Perhaps I was being a whiner, but it’s the way I felt, and I was only one year into a young teaching career. It was not too soon to start over. Nancy agreed. And with that, I turned in my resignation effective at the end of the school year.

Well, Mr. Honshell was just floored. To his credit, he bent over backward to try to change my mind, to find some kind of accommodation for me. He would put me in my own classroom by myself, dissolve the team, whatever I wanted. Nope. My mind was made up. I wanted, no I needed to be closer to home, and I told him I had no intention of moving into Charlotte. As soon as school was out I had plans to move into an apartment in Leslie where my fiancee would be moving as soon as we were married. And that was that. My two teammates could not disguise their glee that I would soon be gone. They were not even good actresses about it. But no matter. I returned their glee with my own tired relief. A gentleman knows when to leave.

The Wedding

In June, 1975 at the age of 24 I finally took leave of my parent’s accommodations, and they became almost empty-nesters with my sister still away at college in Anderson, Indiana. Nancy and I had found a great two-bedroom apartment on Church Street in Leslie in a house that had a couple other apartments in it. Ours was the largest of the units, and it had been recently remodeled, and we helped with some of the painting and choice of colors. The landlords were wonderful, and it was a great deal. Plus I was looking forward to a whole two months of alone time, my whole amount of bachelorhood, before Nancy and I tied the knot in August.

And during that time I repeated my efforts of the summer before with the resumes and the interviews, and don’t you know the results were the same. I found myself covering the same territory with the only differences that this time I had one year of teaching experience and a very nice letter of recommendation from my first-year principal.

On August 2nd Nancy and I were married at the Kingdom Hall in Leslie, and rather than have Mike as my best man, we had asked him to perform the ceremony. He did a great job! One of my other best friends, Eric was the best man, though he’d lain under the sun lamp just a tad too long that morning and looked like a lobster during the whole event, but then that was Classic Eric, and if you knew him you’d understand. Nancy’s friend, Veronica, was maid of honor, and she’d performed the same honor for her two sisters, Evelyn and Sharon as well. And then we were off to the Rives Township Hall for a quick reception.

Yup! That township hall . . . The scene of the crime where my mom knocked out my two front teeth almost exactly 20 years earlier. I had this strange feeling of déjà vu all over again. The hall looked so much smaller than I recalled it as a child. I hadn’t set foot in the place in probably 18 years or so. But here I was now, and the sisters from the congregation had decorated it up so brightly, that even my mom’s presence there could not diminish the place. And we all had a good time.

And then it was home to the apartment for our wedding night. Yes it would have been great to go to a hotel, but we were saving all our money for the wedding trip, and we weren’t leaving for Niagara Falls until the next day and we were saving all the cash for that, and so we’d made the conscious decision to spend the first night in our own apartment. Everyone had been duly warned. No shivaree!

Two virgins, and no I’m not talking about the John Lennon and Yoko Ono album, but we figured it out. And there was a lot of practice that night, so much so that I got so tired and worn out that I found it necessary to take a break, and somehow the TV found its way on to The Mary Tyler Moore Show while we replenished our energy reserves with peanut butter and crackers.

I found myself thinking philosophically as I dropped off to sleep that night, so that’s what it’s like.

We drove over into Canada via the Windsor Tunnel under the Detroit River. We had reservations at a motel in Saint Catharines, Ontario for the rest of the week. Our honeymoon was coupled with the District Convention which was being held at the racetrack there. But before that we had plans to visit everything in the area, the Welland Canal which acts much like the Soo Locks and lifts ships over the Niagara Escarpment between Lakes Ontario and Erie, Niagara Falls, the town of Niagara-on the-Lake, The Rainbow Bridge, the Maid of the Mist, Goat Island. We pretty much did it all on both sides of the border both in Canada and New York though we bunked in Canada. Our big joke was that we met in Canada and so we were honeymooning in Canada like it was some big adventure to come to a foreign country. It was as foreign as we could afford. And then later that weekend we went to the district convention at the racetrack in Saint Catharines and returned home. To our home.

I again placed my name on the substitute teachers list and looked forward to the first day of school when I just knew I’d find another assignment somewhere. I was nothing if not the eternal optimist. Meanwhile, my teacher’s pay from Charlotte was spread out through the end of the summer, but it was dwindling as were my savings, and Nancy was not working. A great way to begin a marriage.

(In the next installment, do I find that teaching job? I sure hope so, because Nancy gets pregnant. OMG!)

Link to next installment . . .

Link to last installment . . .

Link to beginning of book . . .


Autobiography, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, Serial, Series, Teach Children, Teacher, Teachers, Teaching, Teaching Children, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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