Rumor had it . . . Part 1

rag doll1Francine Lubarsky.

A straggly-haired, prickly-tempered ragamuffin, abandoned as a baby and raised by wolves (or so rumor had it). In my book, an unpredictable curiosity to be carefully watched. And avoided.


Back when I was a kid, I used to hate it when my dad would launch into his “Back when I was a kid . . .“ routine. Other than providing yet another opportunity to roll my eyeballs, I never saw much purpose to it.

I would present what I considered to be an open-and-shut case for something I wanted, didn’t want, had, didn’t have, needed, or didn’t need. That’s when he would steal my thunder to relive his childhood woes under the guise of teaching me a lesson about doing without. What difference did it make to me how far he had to walk to school, what the price of a candy bar was, or how people survived without refrigeration? To quote an old proverb, “Not my monkeys, not my circus.”

Parents. Sheesh. What did they know about being a kid, anyway? To hear them tell it, they were practically born adults.

They certainly knew nothing of the tribulations I was facing growing up in our suburban, middle class neighborhood. Sure, they’d nervously talk about the impending dooms threatening the very survival of mankind — things like the mounting hostilities of the Cold War and how if World War III broke out and didn’t bring an end to civilization, Elvis’s gyrating hips certainly would. But those were only vague, distant perils that had little meaning to me. In my world, there were much more immediate and menacing threats to worry about.


Threats such as the periodic surprise air raid drills they’d pull at school to prepare us for global annihilation. At the sound of the warning buzzer, we’d silently line up at the classroom door, file out in orderly single file fashion down the hallway to our class’s designated section, kneel face-first against the wall, scrunch down over our knees, and put our locked hands behind our heads to shield us from the make-believe nuclear attack (whatever that was) until the principal rang the all-clear bell.

But the prospect of global annihilation wasn’t the threatening thing. In fact, we enjoyed getting a break from the “three Rs” (Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rithmatic). No, the threatening thing was far more ominous than an atomic bomb. The threatening thing was the black-haired, red-lipped, homicidal lunatic of a teacher, Miss Lastra. From the time she arrived at school until she left at the end of the day, she wore a braided plastic lanyard around her neck with a metal whistle clasped at the end. She even wore it to bed (or so rumor had it). If she caught you whispering while she made the rounds on her search-and-destroy mission for juvenile delinquents, she’d sneak up on you from behind, bend down real close to your ear, and blow the whistle at maximum blast.

Nowadays she’d be put on administrative leave while a criminal investigation into child abuse was conducted; but back then, no one tattled on teachers. There were two primary reasons for our silence: 1) We were taught that teachers were to be obeyed, not questioned; and 2) fear of retaliation when Miss Lastra found out who the snitch was. Not necessarily in that order.

Of course, compared to the kinds of threats in schools these days, things like having a whistle blown in your ear, albeit painful and intimidating, were tame by comparison. But as far as facing anything life-threatening? No.

That is, except for that one time in the second grade when Francine Lubarsky tried to kill me.


Stay tuned for Part 2 to see if the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated . . .

Category: Children, Salvation
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2 Responses
  1. Anonymous says:

    She’s back! So glad to read from you again! Don’t leave us hanging too long wondering about Francine….we may start our own rumors. Good job Susan!

    • UnapologeticallySusan says:

      Not to worry — Francine can’t be left unsupervised for very long (a hint about Part 2). Thank-you for commenting :)

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