Alice in English Class

Not too long ago my aunts were going through some of my Grandma's things after she passed away. They came across one of her "autograph books" from her Sophomore and Junior year of high school [1936-1937]. They decided that I would appreciate it. I felt honored to receive it, and have been wanting to do something with it since then. I found two entries that seemed to be connected, and today finally had some time to sit down and write. This is a work of fiction, because clearly I wasn't there nor did I ever talk to Grandma about this particular incident. It was fun to "put myself in her shoes" while I wrote this. You'll notice that the story is bookended with the two entries I found. Those were not modified [I had a hard time distinguishing the teacher's last name]. Enjoy.


November 19, 1936

Dear Sally,

I am very happy to have you as a classmate. I am sure I will never forget those days in 11th English Class where we giggled to our hearts content.

Rose Rae Ramsey


Alice slowly walked into room 114, quietly taking her seat in the third row. Placing her books on her desk, she glanced at the clock. 9:31. She smiled to herself, always ready to delight in the small victories of the day. This particular smile came at the prompting of her friend, Rose, who pointed out to Alice just last week that she couldn’t stand to be late to anything. She glanced around the room and, although she had made herself wait an extra minute before coming in today, there were only two other students present.

The seats began to fill up as the clock ticked on, and by 9:34 all the seats were taken. Rose had slid in the desk next to Alice, a sly smile on her face as she shook her head in an I-told-you-so manner. Alice opened her mouth to let her friend know of her effort, but just as she did Mr. Stacey, their teacher, began the day’s lesson.

“Yesterday we began working with superlatives. Remember, the superlative of an adjective or adverb is the the greatest form of the adjective or adverb.” Mr. Stacey had a way of enunciating the word of the skill his classes were working on, and the four syllable word “su-per-la-tive” seemed to be one of his favorites. “This indicates that something has at least one feature to a greater degree than anything it is being compared to in a given context.”

Alice glanced over at Rose who appeared to be viciously scribbling notes. I thought we took notes on this yesterday? she thought, scanning the room to see if anyone else was doing the same. She skimmed her notes from yesterday. It was all there. She looked back to her neighbor’s desk to catch a mischievous look from her friend. Rose began folding the paper and, after scribbling “Sally” on the front, dropped it on the floor between the two desks. As she let it slip between her fingers she let out a slight laugh; a whisper of a laugh really.

Alice, not just known for being early but also for not liking to break rules, shifted in her seat and glanced back up at Mr. Stacey. He was at the board now, scratching out some words in chalk. Slowly sliding low in her seat, she stretched her left arm into the aisle and snatched the letter which bore her nickname. She slid it under her notebook and tried to look innocent. This only made Rose snicker more.

“Dorothy,” Mr. Stacey turned back to the class, “Can you give me the superlative of one of the adjectives or adverbs that I have written on the board?”

“The superlative of ‘good’ is ‘best’?”

“Is that a question?” Mr. Stacey asked with a grin.

Ummm...no. Sorry.” Dorothy stammered, “The superlative of ‘good’ is ‘best.’”

“Good job. Henry, what about ‘beautiful’?” He asked pointing to the next word on the board.

“Well, Mr. Stacey, the superlative of ‘beautiful’ is ‘most beautiful.’”

Mr. Stacey chuckled under his breath, “Yes Henry. And I like your emphasis of the word ‘superlative.’” As the class laughed, Mr. Stacey returned to the board and in his neat, English teacher handwriting wrote “Pg. 163, #1-15, 17, & 20.” The class responded with shuffling pages and whispers. “You have the rest of the class period to work on this assignment. Please be sure to ask if you have questions.” He grabbed his coffee mug and returned to his desk.

Alice quietly took the note out and unfolded it carefully.


I thought you said you were going to try to be LATE today?! You just can’t do it, can you? You are simply too responsible... or should I say, you are the MOST responsible person.


She had drawn a picture of a clock and in the center wrote “Alice’s best friend.” Under normal circumstances this may not have struck anyone as funny, or even clever. But this day, at this particular time during this particular moment, it struck Alice as hilarious. Maybe it was the fact that she really tried to be late and still ended up early. Maybe it was the clever use of a superlative. Maybe it was the picture, which Alice couldn’t help but notice had been drawn horribly off scale with the numbers 8, 9 and 10 in very wrong positions on the clock. Maybe. But as she tried to suppress her giggles she realized it was the fact that she was sitting in a nearly silent room and wasn’t supposed to be laughing.

She recalled just this past Sunday at church when her youngest brother had made a face at her from the end of the pew. She was reprimanded for laughing which only made her laugh more. Why are things funnier when you know you should remain silent?

Rose was only making the situation worse. She too had caught the bug and was no longer doing her whisper laugh but was joining Alice in full blown giggles. The girl sitting behind her kicked her chair leg. Both girls giggled harder.

By the time the class was dismissed, Alice and Rose nearly had tears streaming down their cheeks from the pressure of trying to suppress their giggles. They shuffled out of the room and, as they turned to go separate ways, Alice managed to say through her giggles, “Never pass me a note in English class again, Rose!” Turning the corner though, she knew that their fun had just begun.


December 18, 1936

So English 11th is a place where you can “giggle to your hearts’ content”? Well, well, well-- that may be as it is, for I agree with De Quincy “The laughter of girls is, and ever was, among the delightful things of earth.”

And Alice, I hope you can go through life with “giggles.”

Frank Stacey

(Your English teacher)


Sharon said...

Thanks Kels. I've never thought about Mom giggling in English class. I can almost see it when you write it.

Aunt Linda said...

Kels - Your creativity is beyond my comprehension (that particular gene didn't even slightly leak into my body). I've had several times during these past two weeks where I've really missed Mom (Grandma) so this couldn't have come at a better time. Thank you!

Joan said...

I am so thankful for Alice's friend's comment that sparked a teacher's response, I love his quote,and the perfect timing of a story imagined 75 years later.
I am so thankful for your heritage.
Love Joan