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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our School Nurse

When I was in grade school, which in our communtiy meant kindergarten through eighth grade, we had a School Nurse named Miss Wein. It was during the 1940's and early '50's that Miss Wein occupied a place in my life. She wore a tailored navy blue dress with white collar every day and sensible black oxfords on her feet. Her hair was swept up and twisted into a knot behind her head pulling her features tight. No make-up. A no-nonsense appearance for sure.

I believe she had taken an oath to never smile at a student. Her mouth was always set in a firm line, never allowing the corners to turn up a bit nor was there ever a twinkle in her eye. Oh no. This woman was all business. Yet, her hands were gentle as they swabbed my scraped knee with the green liquid soap she kept nearby for frequent use. After the grit of the playground was wiped away, Miss Wein dabbed the raw area with mercurochrome while I winced in supposed agony. Actually, it only stung for a few seconds. The memory is clear as I was often in her office to have a scrape attended to. I must have been a clumsy little girl! 

Once or twice a year, our entire class entered Miss Wein's domain for an eerie event. We stood in line and, one by one, we were taken into the tiny bathroom that adjoined her office. The room was completely dark. We sat on a chair while Miss Wein examined our scalp with an ultra-violet light for lice and ringworm and who knows what else.  I breathed a sigh of relief each time I passed what felt like a test. 

We also lined up for height and weight checks and to have our backs checked for scoliosis. Miss Wein did the height and weight but a doctor performed the scoliosis check. I passed that one for many years, too. Miss Wein checked our eyes each year, too, but she muffed that one with me. In the fifth grade, I passed her eye test but could not see the chalkboard. My mother took me to an eye doctor who determined that I was extremely nearsighted. 

I had friends who spent a little time on the cot in Miss Wein's office when they felt too ill to stay in class. She popped a thermometer in their mouth. The resulting number let her know if the child's mother was to be called or not. 

Whenever I passed the School Nurse's office door, the odor of the green soap and the mercurochrome drifted into the hall and tickled my nose. Now, I wonder if it really did or was I remembering it from the many times I visited Miss Wein to have my scraped knee attended to. I also wonder if she smiled once she left the school each day. And what did she wear at home? 

Search through your memory bank for a School Nurse. Did you have one at your grade or high school? Did you ever have the need to visit her? Do you remember what she was like? Write about it for your Family Memories book. 

Think about other people in your school days besides your teachers. Maybe the custodian was a special person in your school. Or the principal's secretary. Did you have a lunchroom? Maybe there was a memorable person who worked there. Write about them. 

I once wrote a poem about a little boy who visited a school nurse, relying solely on my own experiences to do so. So, how about you? Who from your school days of long ago will you write about? 

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