Mrs. Rosenblatt was my 7th grade English teacher. Imagine a female version of Ben Stein but shorter. Less suits. More casual. Shoulder length grey hair. Rarely blinked and never smiled. She woefully talked about her boyfriend who was a postal worker while teaching. She went on and on about how the government does not care about mailmen because mailmen drive those little box cars which could and would tip over easily. If the government respected mailmen, they would drive bigger trucks. She was different than other teachers.
I went to a private school in the suburbs of New Orleans called Metairie Park Country Day School. Everyone was rich and perfect and white. Most of the teachers were conservative and wanted to uphold the idealism. But not Mrs. Rosenblatt. She had a boyfriend, not a husband. She wasn’t a typical southern woman. She was Jewish and criticized the government. Niiiiiicccccceeee!!!! She was dark and weird. I was drawn to her. I was probably the only student laughing with her and not at her.
So when Mrs. Rosenblatt assigned for us to write a poem in class, and we were not required to read it out loud, although some did…I opted to do something different. In 7th grade, kids wrote about sports, family vacations, and gerbils. But not me. I decided to write a poem about my dead mother. In case you didn’t know, my mother was murdered when I was a baby. My family never talked about her or talked about what happened. Still unsolved. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. There were no pictures of her in my house. My dad, who raised me, never mentioned her name. It was almost as if my mother never existed…which was fine. Whatever… I mean, who needs a mom?
I don’t recall the entire poem. I think the gist was since I couldn’t remember my mom holding me as a baby, I could imagine her holding me as a baby, and that was good enough for me.
Now, I don’t know where this came from. This was such strange behavior. No one was vulnerable in my family. My friends and I were not vulnerable with each other. Well, the few friends I had. Okay, the two friends. I never talked about the absence of my mother. Vulnerability made you weak at my school. Weak was a target on your back. I had too many of those. I just remember thinking that my dead mom was good poetry material. Plus, there was something about Mrs. Rosenblatt that I trusted because she seemed flawed too.
No words were exchanged between us when I handed it in. None. Mrs. Rosenblatt gave a blank, blink-less nod.
My dad came home from a parent/teacher conference a week later. I stayed home. I was too busy on an AOL chatroom talking to 40 year old men pretending to be 14 years old boys. I rushed downstairs wanting to hear what the teachers said. I was always and still am a sucker for validation. I had to get it somewhere. Mind you, I never had a mom.
My dad always wore suits to school events. Even though it was hot and humid, he wore wool suits from the 50s that belonged to my grandfather. I think it gave the impression that my dad had a job when he didn’t. We were all living off of my murdered mother’s inheritance which was why I was able to go to this private school.
“Dixie, Mrs. Rosenblatt showed me your poem,” he said tauntingly. He knew I’d be embarrassed. He had a passion to humiliate. Me, included. He acted as if I wrote a poem about all the times I silently farted….which in hindsight would have been less humiliating.
FUUUUUCCCKKK. I screamed silently in my head. My heart was pounding. Mrs. Rosenblatt, how could you? I thought we had this weirdo to weirdo bond. Why didn’t you say anything to me first? You went to my dad?
Blood rushed to my head. I wanted to die. No. No. No. That was suppose to be between me and Mrs. Rosenblatt.
“C’mon. I need to talk to you.”
I wasn’t sure if my dad was going to scold me or tease me. Was I suppose to keep my mother’s death a secret? I had done something wrong. I felt it in my gut.
“Listen, Dixie. It’s sad. Your mother died. But you have it a lot better than kids with divorced parents because it’s on-going with them. But with you, your mother died. You grieve. And then move on.”
I couldn’t look my dad in the eyes. I stared at a spot on the floor. A dirty floor seemed more comforting.
“Okay.” I nodded. But really I was agreeing to end the conversation.
I wanted to go back upstairs in my bedroom and continue to converse with SLiCKYRICKY from the AOL chatrooms. He didn’t know anything about my dead mom, and that’s how it should be. Side note, SlickyRicky sent me my first my first dick pic. It took like 25 minutes to upload but that’s what the internet was like in the 90s. He was definitely not 14 years old.
I never talked about my mother again, and I definitely didn’t write…(until this blog).
When I went to school the following day, I felt disappointed and angry. C’mon Mrs. Rosenblatt. Grow some monotone balls. You should have said something to me.
I left that private school and went to a public school for high school. I was a lot happier in public school. Private school was too perfect and rich. I never could never fit in there. Well, I didn’t fit in my public high school either, but at least I was surrounded by other kids who I knew had fucked up families. That was the unspoken code in public schools.
Cut to the summer after my senior year in high school. My dad dropped me off at Movie Pitchers. A movie theatre in New Orleans where you can order a pitcher of beer and watch a movie, hence the name. They didn’t screen regular movies there. Indie and cult movies. Some porn….which was why I wanted to go. There was a 3D 70s porn. It was my first 3D movie! I didn't tell my dad what movie I was planning on seeing, but I don’t think he would have cared.
It was Tuesday during the day and the place was never too crowded during the day. I got there early and purchased my ticket. I didn’t have enough money for popcorn so I stood around the lobby looking at flyers of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Movie Pitchers screened that movie every Saturday night at Midnight. I had gone once and hated it. I was remembering that time in disgust when….
In walks Mrs. Rosenblatt…with a man. I assumed he was her mailman boyfriend. I didn’t want her to see me, but I was the only one there besides the nose pierced ticket guy. I turned my back to them. Surely a 60 year old English teacher at a conservative private school wouldn't buy tickets to see a 3D 70’s porn, right? Nope. Two tickets, please.
I slowly turned around. We looked at each other. I don’t think she recognized me at first since. It had been 5 years. More puberty had happened to my body. I looked older for my age. I never got carded. She looked the same though. Her boyfriend seemed younger. We kept eyeing each other. I was still holding onto my grudge. I wanted to humiliate her. I wanted her to leave. I didn’t want to watch a porn with her.
“Hello, Mrs. Rosenblatt,” I said…with hurt in my eyes.
She looked at me.
“Hi?” She still couldn’t place me. Seriously? An extra twist of knife to my heart.
“Dixie. I was in your class at Country Day.” Please. Please. Remember me.
She adjusted her glasses on her nose.
“Oh, right. Good to see you.”
I could tell she was uncomfortable even through her expressionless face. I was uncomfortable too. There was no what movie are you going to see. We both knew. This 3D 70s porn movie.
“Good to see you too.”
I walked away and headed to the movie theatre. I was embarrassed to be there by myself. It was empty and sat last row. A few minutes later they walked in with popcorn.
It was just the three of us in that movie theatre that day. They sat a couple of rows ahead of me.
The move was barely in 3D. The 3D glasses were paper. I don’t know what I was expecting. I guess I was hoping for a bush and a dick right in my face. But nope. Only Mrs. Rosenblatt and her mailman boyfriend.
The porn was anticlimactic like losing my virginity. Eh, that’s it? Okay.
Mrs. Rosenblatt upset me again that day. Not because she didn’t share her popcorn or beer, but because she still didn’t say anything again to me.
Now thinking back on it, I might have put too much expectations on Mrs. Rosenblatt which I often did with older women. Longing to be mothered anyway I could.
Fine. Lesson learned.
But teachers need to learn things too.
If you’re a teacher, and you run into your student during a 70s 3D porn, go to a different movie. No matter what.
It’s the obvious answer.