There’s condensation on the cars and a chill in the morning air today. And I think I may have seen some autumn colors at the side of the highway. The last of the blueberries are off of the bush but the tomatoes are going wild and the pumpkin vines are running away with themselves.
The same is happening in 1934. Summer is slipping away and in is creeping colder nights and sweaters, crisper sounds, and slightly darker days. In fact, it has happened. September, October, and November are transcribed and summer is done, her senior year of high school has begun and she is overwhelmed with homework, her tortured feelings over Drobey continue for a three month (more) roller coaster ride that twists up her insides, she’s a bridesmaid in a wedding and learns to drink high balls, she goes to school dressed like a small child for something called “old clothes day” has too many parties and activities and piano lessons and Falcons…
And all the while the Great Depression is really sinking its toes into the sand and getting comfortable. In 1934, things are getting worse. Babu doesn’t write about it, doesn’t express worries for her family or for others, doesn’t comment on what is happening in the country, of course she’s a teenager, she writes about boys, but I now see it showing in her writing. All November they go back and forth on whether school will be closed for the month. It’s upheaval and it’s all up in the air. Babu is concerned about the work they’ll have to do at home and the Saturdays and vacations they’ll have to attend school during to make up the time. The School’s principal asks the parents to “rebel” but the school closes anyway. On November 9th the school closes and every day Babu is unsure if classes will restart the next day or not. She just showed up at school one day and there were “no lessons.” They don’t go back to school again until December.
She never said why the school was closing in her journals, just her back and forth about whether she liked the idea because she was so stressed by the work, or whether it sounded like a bad idea because of the time they would have to make up. I had an inkling it was due to The Depression so I did some research and I was right. I had never heard about schools having to close. Of course, I heard about kids going to school hungry, about impoverished conditions, about kids not going to school to help at home, on farms, or at work but I had never heard about the schools themselves being so underfunded that they were in debt to their teachers for their pay and, even if just for a short time, would have to close their doors. I am embarrassed to admit it, because I was an educator for ten years, but finding out about this was like the moment I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. Things I always trusted in and a belief in the infallibility of something was ripped out from under my feet. To learn that schools could close because there was no money? I read this article a few months ago about schools in Venezuela. My god. No matter how bad we have it it is never as bad as it gets in third world countries. Still, I was shocked that could happen in the US.
Regardless you could say Babu got through it all. And quite nicely, in fact.