Once upon a time, back when I was a wee Nella wearing the proud pleated plaid of the Catholic school set, I had a knack for getting into trouble. Not for pranks, mind you, though there was that one time I thought I was clever and prank called a boy to make a girl laugh and got in trouble for it*. Nor would I get into trouble because I was disruptive in class, even though I was a class clown and sometimes my need to “make them laugh”--as the song wisely advocates—was too strong a call to deny.

No, I would get into trouble because I would read during class.

It wasn’t even that I did it in an act of rebellion against the parochial school system. It was a sincere compulsion, a nervous tic of a bored mind. I would sit there as the teacher droned on and on about things I either didn’t care about (spelling and math) or things I’d already read a few chapters ahead of in my boredom (history and science) and—

You see, there was always something more INTERESTING to read only an arm’s length away. Oh, I could blame that I usually had one in my book bag to begin with. I could blame the fact that some well-intentioned but fool-minded teacher or parent had stocked each classroom in our small Catholic school with a few shelves of age-appropriate odds-and-ends. Oh, I could blame the fact that the coat closets were in the back and if a girl was first in the morning line-up she could have a few precious seconds in the chaos created by thirty-five other children to squirrel one those books away to her desk before the teacher could get the lot of them settled in their seats. I could blame the sloth’s crawl of my classes, which were only up to the Explorers when I had already read ahead to the American Revolution**. I could blame Math which boggled me or Religion which confused me or Spelling which—

Let us NOT speak about SPELLING.

I remember the struggle on my teachers’ faces when they would have to explain to my parents what the trouble was. “Antonella is a very good student,” was the usual opener, “but we’ve been having a LITTLE issue with her paying attention. She reads in class--”

And here they would falter; on their faces, the age old battle between the good teacher wanting to encourage a young mind and the school’s need to enforce an almost navy-like discipline within the underaged ranks RAGED on.

And that’s a wonderful thing,” they would assure me in haste, “but there’s a Time and a Place and class isn’t either.”

And that should have been that. I should have learned my lesson, resolved myself from further infractions, and turned a blind eye from the bookcase in the back of the room.


A friend of mine still gives me grief for the fact that, when we were small and playing together, she would hate it when I came across a book; I would gravitate towards the book, pick it up, and start reading…FORGETTING SHE WAS OVER AND WE HAD BEEN PLAYING. Now, I don’t remember it happening QUITE like that, but she is very insistent on this fact, and I trust her memories in this matter over my own absentminded ‘memberances.

Like I said, it was a compulsion, a nervous tic, an unconscious retreat to more interesting worlds. I’d like to think that at 27 I might actually have a foot more firmly planted in reality, but I dare not make any promises lest I tell only lies. Even now, I have a copy of Two Years Before The Mast by my elbow at work, and sometimes--when all my paperwork is done and things have trickled to stagnation--my brain wanders over to my right elbow and…

After all, it can’t be MY fault that the words on the page and the musings of my mind are a thousand times more interesting than everything else? And there’s still so much more to LEARN--

Time and a Place, Nella. Time and a Place.


*As I so rightly deserved to, because I was a foolish little ass that needed to learn that THINKING before DOING is usually a good idea. Hrumph.

**I had to wait until 5th grade for them to mention Jamestown. FIFTH! GRADE! You find out fast enough in school that if you want to actually learn anything properly you had better to do it yourself. Double Hrumph.***

***I didn’t get a Hrumph out of that guy.****

****Give the Governor a Hrumph.+


++Watch your ass.
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