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Home Ick

by Eva Pasco


Spiraling down Jefferson Airplane's  Go Ask Alice when she's ten feet tall  looking glass of the sixties, I find myself winding along the linoleum corridors, a seventh grader at Lincoln Junior High.   I spot a yellow piece of paper the size of a credit card on the floor.  Those coveted "passes" bearing a teacher's John Hancock allowed us students a furlough of two minutes travel time out of class to the lavatory.  In this day and age when one is advised to wash hands for the amount of time it takes to sing  "Happy Birthday," those passes wouldn't have afforded much freedom--unless all you intended to do was take a few drags on a cig. 
Teachers stood outside their classroom doors to monitor these "letters of transit." One sentinel was Mrs. L, the Home Economics teacher. Well-groomed, tall, regal, and authoritative, she rounded up the usual suspects to interrogate for bogus passes with forged signatures while her girls filed into the Home Ec room. Once inside her domain, you forfeited your identity by stuffing your locks into a hairnet and donning a pinafore apron for the cooking segment of Ick 
 I remember well my role for one such recipe of the day-- breaking an egg over dry mixture.  Too Timid to crack the shell, Mrs. L's penetrating voice squeaked like a shrill violin, "I can tell you never bake at home."  The buck didn't stop with me.  She'd threaten to trim  bangs if they hung in your eyes.  She'd admonish you to stand up straight.  She'd reprimand you to pick up your feet and walk gracefully like a lady. She'd voice her displeasure with those who wore heavy makeup with a tsk tsk and, "Did your mother see you leave the house like that?" 
The worst part of Ick was sewing. I'd never even threaded a needle, let alone wield a fork to crack an egg. To say I found it challenging to decipher the foreign symbols of a Simplicity pattern, as well as possess the dexterity to pin  tissue paper on fabric and cut along dotted lines and around notches, was an understatement. I can't tell you how many times Mrs. L had me "rip out seams" because they were crooked.   And how she hated seeing long strings hanging from those garments! "Lazy women's threads," she'd call them. 
Truth is, these A-line skirts  were behind the eight ball fashion plate--especially at Mrs. L's decreed modest length below the knee.  The only girl who ever wore this byproduct of Home Ick in public was statuesque, Sophia Loren-like Nelda--and not by choice, let me tell you.  Nelda happened to be in the cubby for Mrs. L to pin up her hem.  The fire alarm box sounded off for a routine firedrill.  Mrs. L coerced Nelda to come out of the cubby and file out with her raggedy-edged skirt grazing her ankles.  That's when I knew our teacher had a soft spot for us.  Sensing Nelda's embarrassment, she draped her own full-length coat over her.  Once outside in the quadrangle, the rest of us girls shivered and shielded Nelda from the Shop boys who didn't seem to mind their own full-length aprons flapping in the breeze. 
During the innocence of the early sixties, Mrs. L presided over a curriculum designed to mold impressionable girls into refined young ladies under the subject headings of cooking, sewing, babysitting, and good grooming. Given the relaxed dress code and shakier moral grounds of today, I'm sure she would roll her eyes and tsk tsk as a procession of girls entered her domain sporting nose rings, pink streaks, tattoos, and belly shirts.  

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Underlying Notes by Eva Pasco  An E. Quiche by Eva Pasco



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