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Marilyn M

by Eva Pasco 

Marilyn M - CandleOne of the most famous performances in American history was that of Marilyn Monroe flicking the mic and singing Happy Birthday, Mr. President for JFK’s 45th birthday at a Democratic fund raiser held at  Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962. However, the beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed Marilyn M who exerted her influence on me during the early Sixties and beyond was not the smoldering screen star, but my father’s first cousin with a lyrical last name sounding like “marshmallow.” Whenever my family paid a Sunday visit, I was impressed to see Marilyn pouring over books for her studies at RIC—Rhode Island College. She was the first person on the paternal side of my family to go to college. Years later I would become the first person on the maternal side of my family to graduate from RIC with a teaching degree as Marilyn did.


During Marilyn’s early years of teaching before she had her own children to rush home to, she’d often stop at our house after school, delivering surplus classroom goodies: chalk, colored construction paper, books, newsprint, and spelling slips.  I not only savored every book, but nearly every evening after dinner I’d occupy the time by playing school at the kitchen table.  I’d crease several pieces of newsprint, use my ruler to draw heading lines and write fictitious names on the top line; fill in Lincoln Community School, Grade 3 on the second; “Arithmetic” was centered on the third.  I’d proceed to fill in each box with an addition or subtraction problem, purposely making errors in random boxes so I could place X’s among the curly C’s and mark a score on top.  I’d continue to do the same with a pile of spelling slips, purposely spelling words wrong.  Vindictive, wasn’t I?  At the age of nine, I couldn’t wait to achieve my lifelong dream to become a teacher so I could correct dozens and dozens of papers.  What was I thinking?


Embarking on a course charted by my cousin Marilyn, I joined the National Teachers Society in high school and got a taste of what it was like to prepare a lesson and take charge of a classroom filled with my peers. Following in Marilyn’s footsteps I went to RIC.  During my sophomore year I spent a semester trying out lessons at the campus Henry Barnard school.  I will never forget one of our group evaluation sessions after Norm created pandemonium with a math lesson using M&Ms.  When the practicum instructor asked him how he could have handled the situation differently, he pondered, “Use jelly beans?”


No surprise, one of the coveted books Marilyn gifted me sits on a shelf inside my antique book case as a loving memento to her profound influence—Polly Prentiss Goes to School.  Students fortunate to have had Marilyn for their classroom teacher loved her for the kindness, compassion, and creativity she shared with them.  I don’t think Marilyn got to enjoy a full year of her youthful retirement, having succumbed to illness. Like Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn M is a candle in the wind whose flame still burns brightly for all the lives she touched.


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



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