In Search of A Suitable Schoolmaster

AA boy's first day at school should be memorable, and I'm here to tell you Andrew will never, never forget his, about which he wakes up in the night. Andrew is my great-nephew, the grandson of my younger sister. He is a natural-born citizen of the United States of America and of Pennsylvania, and is 15 years old. Andrew has never set foot in a public schoolroom, being home taught by his mother along with five other children.

I remember my first day at school. My mother had walked me over the route the previous day, saying I would go by myself in the morning. ``Sometimes,'' she said, ``a gentleman doesn't need his mommy tagging along.'' I noticed, of course, that other children were escorted! She introduced me to Constable Watson at the railroad crossing, and showed me which schoolhouse door to enter. She said, ``Now mind your manners and make your polites, and I want to hear everything when you come home.''

Andrew's first day at school was different. I hadn't seen Andrew and sibs since he was 11 (he's the oldest), and I was amazed at what his mother had done with his education. I remember we had a small difference as to taking a frying pan or burning the hot dogs on a stick, and I said that a difference of opinion of this magnitude could be settled only by a vote of the witenagemot. Andrew said, ``Experience on a global scale suggests that you are exactly right.''

I replied sagaciously, ``Can rightness be comparative?''

Andrew said, ``Quite so!'' He is now three years older, living in Saudi Arabia where his father has employment, and it was thought he should relieve his mother of advanced schooling and attend a private institution that could evaluate him and decide just which grade of conventional learning he is in.

Great consideration was given this. His mother had done the family teaching under state supervision, but after a few minutes with Andrew anybody recognized that he was ahead of the pack. After much search and meditation, a private secondary school was selected in the province of Nova Scotia, and Andrew was prepared to fly from Saudi Arabia for his first day of school.

Since his grandparents live in New Jersey, he arrived there on schedule to visit them before flying to Halifax. They took him to a bargain outlet and bought him, among other essentials and nonessentials, a complete wardrobe of dutiful winter clothing suitable to fend off the miserable North Atlantic storms that lash off the Banks and the Arctic perpetuities that sweep from the Gaspe Peninsula and turn the noses blue.

Thus equipped for the worst, Andrew flew to Halifax and was picked up by the school van and carried to Sydney where the headmaster met him and said he was three days early.

And the Canadian immigration officers also met him and said he could not enter but must go right back to Saudi Arabia.

On my first day at school I came home to report my teacher was named Miss Boyle and that she was very nice, and she smelled of soap and wore a gold watch on a chain.

The Canadian immigration folks were mistaken. Andrew's mother had foreseen and taken care of all such red tape, and in a few minutes Andrew had been granted entry and was lawfully in Canada. But because he was early, the school facilities were not ready, and the headmaster took him (and two other early boys) to wait the weekend in a Sydney motel.

The headmaster said he had some business to attend to and would be gone until Sunday evening, at which time he would return, retrieve his three students, and the academics would commence.

Along about mealtime on Sunday evening, the manager of the motel telephoned the police, saying he felt it strange that these boys were left thus, and the ensuing investigation was unable to turn up the headmaster. He had seemingly abandoned the school van. And he had withdrawn all the school funds from the several accounts the previous Thursday. The police also reported he had neglected to leave a forwarding address. Hanky-panky was surmised for the moment. So Andrew didn't have any first day at school in Nova Scotia, and down in New Jersey his grandparents had a telephone call from the Sydney Police requesting instructions.

No need to worry about Andrew, intelligent and capable, except that he had no funds. As soon as that could be rectified, he was put on a plane to Montreal, where he had never been before, with assurance that the airline and the ``Royal Boys'' would transfer him to the next flight to New York. Andrew found his grandparents pleased to see him. Andrew had still never stepped foot in a classroom.

Since the school year had started everywhere else save in Sydney, Nova Scotia, it was difficult to find another institution that had a place for Andrew. So everybody who could be rallied to a definite need was pulled into action, and scarce a school, academy, seminary, and facsimile thereof in this vast nation and wide but was propositioned.

In the end, at least momentarily, an uncle in Tucson, Arizona, called back to New Jersey and said an excellent schoolmaster there was making a place and weary, wayworn Andrew was expected. So Andrew, to the relief of all, has had his first day in school - in the salubriously bland weather of comfortable Ariz., ready with katchouks and mukluks, pemmican and foul-weather gear, with notes on etiquette if you get a rappipie and poutines rappes, and ice creepers.

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