Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ivan Browning, Old Valentines, Women in My Life and Where is Bosnia?

A few years ago, I was driving by the Southside Library on Hendricks Avenue with my friend Viviane Weil and began to tell her a story about my 6th grade teacher at Englewood Elem. (Mrs. Jacobson) and all the time I had spent at the library alone in the evening looking for things to write about for an on-going report I was expected to do on Yugoslavia, the country assigned to me. I am still embarrassed to say, I didn’t give the project my all and spent much of my library time looking at Life Magazine, American Girl and National Geographic. I also spent much of that time thinking about a boy named Ivan Browning.  Upon turning in my report at the end of the year I failed to provide the teacher with any of the newspaper clippings I was supposed to be collecting about my country. I wasn’t in the habit of reading the Times-Union back in those days and unbeknown  to me, all kinds of things were happening in Yugoslavia in the early 60’s. I’m talking earthquakes, alignment with the Soviets and Tito, the dictator,were always in the news. I didn’t know this, but Mrs. Jacobson, my teacher, HAD been reading the TU and after telling her I couldn’t find one single article about Yugoslavia in the newspaper, she emptied out an envelope on her desk with dozens of clippings pertaining to Yugoslavia that I just happened to miss while reading the paper . Hey, if Ann Landers or Dear Abby didn’t print it, I didn’t know it. Little did I know that within about twenty minutes after talking about Ivan Browning and Yugoslavia, I would again be able to relive this moment in 6th grade with the very same 6th grade teacher, Sheila Jacobson.

I attended Englewood Elementary School for half a year after moving back to Jacksonville from Gainesville. My father had rented a house on Welaka Road off of Emerson until he could get us back to the Lakewood-San Jose area. I included in my story to Viviane a lengthy narrative about my old neighborhood and this really tall, good looking kid named Ivan Browning. Looking back now, my 6th grade mind was actually thinking Ivan and I would surely get married. I even met a 6th grade girl in another class who also had a crush on him. Nell  told me in no uncertain terms that he was hers and to forget about him. Sixth grade girls back then had only two things to worry about….exactly what was Kotex for and who would I be getting a Valentine from on February 14th in the Valentine shoebox I had decorated meticulously in “Art” for this extra special day at school.

Viviane and I had just left the American Cancer Society office where I had taken Viviane to work on the Cancer Society Fashion Show scheduled to be held at Belk’s Department Store that year. Viviane wasn’t driving and I was more than happy to get her out of the house to attend the meetings she missed so very much…fashion..fashion ..fashion ..Viviane’s love. As we approached Lakewood, I asked Viviane if she would like to stop by the yarn shop before heading home. Having spent much time and even more money in this shop, I knew Viviane hadn’t been there in awhile and neither had I, so left we turned.

By the time Viviane and I finished looking around, the shop was filled with customers and a particular customer was at the register picking up a piece of needlework she had left at the shop for framing. I overheard her giving the clerk her name and I swear, standing within five feet of me was my 6th grade teacher who I had been talking about in great detail not twenty minutes earlier.

I HAD to speak to her and after introducing myself, Sheila Jacobson apologized for not remembering me. I related my mortification story to her about Yugoslavia and the newspaper clippings and after we determined what year I was in her class (me using a calculator), she told me that she remembered only one kid from that class and that kid was Ivan Browning. I began to laugh.

Mrs. Jacobson had retired from teaching many years earlier and asked me what my life’s work had been. She said that my chosen career was a great choice and pleased her. Her parting words to me were wonderful. With a singing tone she said, “’I’ll bet you can read, too!

As for Ivan Browning, I never saw him again, but found he is Facebook friend of a friend and looks a lot different after fifty years (but still very tall) and the other 6th grade girl competing for his attention was dear Nell. She is still a friend mine and we continue to keep in touch. If it weren't for Ivan, I probably wouldn't still be friends with Nell.

I don't know how these situations happen to me. I'm am consista-ntly amazed at my mind that can remember that decorated Valentine shoebox from the 6th grade and with the same mind (well, almost) can walk into a room and in a split second forget why. I really don't like getting old.