Wherefore art thou Easterburg?
- Rambling Remembrances by Don French -
As one prepares for their first Social Security check and their sixtieth birthday party is only a rapidly fading memory, it’s funny how some things return ones thoughts to their long gone high school days. Sometimes it’s chatting with an old friend, or watching bits and pieces of “American Graffiti” late at night on Turner Cable Movies. Sometimes it’s finding a long lost memento from their high school days.
That’s what happened to me. A few weeks ago, for some unknown reason I was digging through my old musty, smelly creative writing papers generated over the years in many adult education classes I knew would turn me into the next great American novelist. Reading those crackling pages, most of which make it exceedingly clear why I never became a professional writer, recreated, rekindled, and awakened moods, feelings, and passions of a life long since buried in the sands of daily existence.
But one piece stood out. Older than the rest of the pieces, the paper was smaller than the other work. It was typed on one of those 6x9 sheets of newsprint that was supplied in Miss Ovington’s typing class during my senior year at Paso High. For all these years, it had been folded neatly and tucked away waiting to be rediscovered. The newsprint had yellowed, and the creases strained when I opened it, but there it was just as I had written and typed it during that ’60-‘61 school year. I remember now that it was my attempt to write a sonnet, and I remember it was “Easterburg” and her college-prep English IV class that spiked my interest in the Bard-of-Avon’s favorite form.
“Easterburg” wasn’t her real name. She was Catherine Easterling, and by the time I got to high school, the majority of her teaching career was behind her. I have no idea how she came to be known as “Easterburg”, but her nickname only added to her legend as a character. Her desk was on a raised platform in front of the classroom, and because she had difficulty walking, she used a cane and wore orthopedic-looking, lace-up shoes with bulky, 2-inch heels. Because I only knew her when I was a teenager, I can’t say for sure, but I’m sure she enjoyed being the persona that was “Easterburg”.
As I reflect now on more than the character “Easterburg”, I remember the teacher Catherine Easterling, and how she asked her students to do only two things – think and work. I can still remember how she made students read poetry aloud in class and assume roles and read the parts of characters in Shakespearean plays. It was fun to listen to the class snicker and chortle when a boy and girl who meant nothing to each other in real life had to assume the roles of Romeo and Juliet. It was in “Easterburg’s” class I learned and still remember today the opening lines of Sonnet 29:
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Back now to my folded, crinkled piece from high school and how it makes me feel today. I see in the words the same attempt at humor that I’ve heard at many roasts where those who are loved are celebrated in derisive jest. So let it be with this non-iambic pentameter, improperly rhymed, cocky-senior-attitude attempt at a 14 line sonnet. Catherine Easterling, here is the goodbye I never got to say to you, and the thank you long left unspoken.
1902 – 1976
BACK TO THE PR-USA HOMEPAGE