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Why I Liked Geometry

By Marc Jennings

 

I moved the summer after the seventh grade. I had attended Gettysburg Elementary from the first grade through seventh, but began eighth grade at Fairview Elementary. I think most of my teachers at Fairview did not consider me a student with a great deal of potential. Perhaps it was my attitude that sent the wrong signals. In particular, Miss Ellen Hambush, who was my homeroom teacher and also taught eighth grade math, considered me all but incorrigible. She once explained to me that the kids at Fairview were, essentially, a better class of people and implied that I didnít quite measure up. Being offended had not been invented yet, so I took this condescending chat as seriously as I took most teacher advice.

Despite Miss Hambushís low regard for me, at the end of the year she surprisingly designated me as eligible for an advanced Algebra class during the summer at FHS. This would catch me up with a small group of very bright eighth graders who had taken Algebra that year (including our future class valedictorian, Mike Levitt). Assuming I could pass Algebra that summer, I would be all set for a bright future of higher mathematics.

I took Algebra that summer. Mr. Darryl Ashworth was the teacher. I did OK, but Algebra did not light a fire of intellectual enthusiasm in me. Freshman year, I took Algebra II, because that was what you were supposed to do. Well into the year, I had discovered that Algebra was not going to be my lifeís work. I suppose you might say I was an indifferent student. Despite this, I dutifully signed up for Geometry, the third step in the FHS plan to torture its students into a healthful, broadminded, service-seeking adult life.

At the beginning of our sophomore year I reported to fifth period Geometry class and took, or was assigned, a seat in the second row from the door, four desks from the front of the class. Our teacher was Mrs. Evelyn Rinehart. This class was different. Mrs. Rinehart was different. She had a great enthusiasm and joy for this subject, which infected me. I also found that I was born for Geometry. I just understood everything about it as soon as it was introduced. Today, we would say that for me, Geometry was intuitive.

I looked forward to fifth period every day. I was raising my hand and answering questions, going to the board and doing problems. I was enjoying learning. I wasnít Mrs. Rinehartís "pet", but still, as a good teacher, she picked up on my delight with her instruction, and she responded positively to me. I was kind of in my own little Geometry world.

Immediately to my left in class sat Marlene Greenfield, a very nice girl. One day, early in the year, I happened to notice the person who sat to the left of Marlene. It was an electric jolt, double-take, suddenly speechless type of moment. The person who sat next to Marlene was the most beautiful, breathtaking girl I had ever seen. She was every teenage love-sick song ever written all rolled up in one package. That night at home, I told my mother I had seen the girl I would one day marry. My life would never be the same.

That girl was Darlene Glaze. She became, to me, a symbol of everything you could ever want in a girl. I considered her so desirable that I was absolutely unable to speak to her with any confidence at all. I knew that if I tried, I would somehow screw it up and ruin my chances with her forever. I told all my friends that I thought she was very special, but I couldnít manage to say much more than "hi" to her.

Someone told me later that Darlene was going with someone from another school. So I spent the rest of the year thinking about her and stealing a glance at her whenever I could without being too obvious. On one level, I acknowledged I might never have an opportunity with Darlene, but I kept dreaming. And this changed Geometry for me in a fundamental way. I could no longer be an earnest student engaged in learning. Now, I also had to be concerned about being sufficiently cool and not doing or saying something stupid in front of Darlene.

We were sitting in Geometry class on November 22, 1963. At the end of the period, an announcement was made that President Kennedy had been shot. I remember the class being very quiet and subdued as we left the room, wondering what this meant.

After the Christmas break we began to hear about this band in England that had become a phenomena unlike anything that had gone before. Their name was the Beatles and soon, Time magazine had a big article on these four guys that looked different and sounded different. I remember carefully studying this article in a cafeteria study hall, trying to figure out what it was about this band that made them so different. Before we knew what was happening it was Beatlemania. They came to the US, and girls screamed. They were on Ed Sullivan, which everyone watched. We began to hear their records, lots of them, on the radio all the time. You remember what it was like.

One day, in a moment of temporary insanity, I decided that I would change my hair style to one more like the Beatles. I walked in to Geometry with this new hairstyle. As soon as the bell rang, Mrs. Rinehart stood at the front of the class, hands on her hips and sternly surveyed us. She looked at me and said, in a mock disapproving tone, "Marc, I never thought you would do something like that." My hair-style crime was so disgusting; she couldnít even bring herself to mention it! Every person in the class looked at me, wondering, Iím sure, what Mr. Geometry smarty-pants had done. I donít know what shade of red I was at that moment, but it had to be close to crimson. I was crushed; and as far as Darlene was concerned, I was sure she was writing down my name on the top of a list of people she would least like to go out with. As they say in Jersey, fogetaboutit.

Well, teenage resiliency being what it is, I gradually recovered from my acute embarrassment. Darlene and I actually had an awkward date once that year. Nancy Marker somehow convinced Darlene that I had a hopeless crush on her, and that it would be a noble act of mercy to let me escort her to her friend, Sharon Sickelsí Sweet 16 birthday party. It was the first time I ever drove a car on a date. It was an icy night. I was scared stiff. There was another couple with us but I donít remember now who they were. I just could not relax and enjoy the evening with the girl I so much wanted to be with. Thank goodness I didnít slide off the road and injure someone, or get stuck on the railroad tracks.

 

"That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track

I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back.

Teen angel, can you hear me?

Teen angel, can you see me?

Are you somewhere up above, and am I still your own true love?"

Yes, it was about that bad. Darlene continued to go with her guy from somewhere else and I spent a few weeks wondering why I said that, and why I didnít do this. I had to face it, it was not meant to be. With little idea what else to do, I gradually adopted a policy of dating mostly girls from Meadowdale with, uh, letís say reputations for things other than outstanding academic achievement. Well, thatís what they had Meadowdale for, wasnít it?

I finished sophomore year. I quit taking math courses. I finished junior year. I finished senior year. Through it all, I never stopped loving Darlene somewhere in my heart.

Sometime after graduation, Darlene and I began dating through circumstances neither one of us remember. She left me after the spring of our freshman year in college. She wasnít ready to commit. But she came back.

Darlene and I were married on July 13, 1968. Although this July was our 41st anniversary, it all really began in 1963, in Geometry.