Although I never use real names in my blog when discussing clients, this story contains the actual maiden name of someone I know. The someone is my time-traveling friend on the water for whom I harbour such deep affection. Although her stories are becoming repetitious, they never lose their intensity.
This story concerns her school days in Montreal where her family had moved after an idyllic early childhood in Victoria, B.C. where Emily Carr could be seen collecting sea shells along the seashore. The move did not sit well with my friend's seven year old self and only got worse when school began. For the first time in her young life, Zeez was subject to jeering and name calling. The theme of the taunts was her last name for reasons that both mystified and enraged her.
In the school world, the hierarchy was set in stone - pupils at the bottom, teachers many many rungs up and at the pinnacle, the school Principal. Approaching the upper levels unbidden was something unheard of. Naturally this never occurred to young Zeez who, after a particularly galling interaction decided to take matters in hand. As the bell sounded for class to begin, Zeezs young hand took to the air.
"Yes?" asked the teacher.
Zeez stood up to announce that she needed to see the Principal. Immediately. The teacher who must have been mildly amused by this demand, told her that if she thought she must indeed speak to the Principal then she would have to go to the classroom where he was teaching. Zeez marched out of the room in pursuit of justice and retribution. Upon reaching the proper classroom, Zeez knocked purposely on the door which was answered by his eminence himself.
"I need to speak to you Sir." she began.
"Come on inside then and do so," he answered turning his back and returning to his desk.
"But Sir, I need to speak to you privately," she whispered after him.
He turned and fixed her in his gaze.
"If you wish to speak to me, you must do it in my classroom."
Zeez entered with great trepidation yet equal determination. The class was full of seventh grade boys who were all watching with interest the spectacle of this young girl on a mission.
"Please tell me what it is of such importance that you come and interupt my classroom young lady." The Principal was frowning and his long fingers were drumming the desk.
Zeez took a long breath and began.
"Sir, Bobby Fowler took my Father's name in vain."
A silence fell in the room. The Principal looked strangely at Zeez likely remembering that this was the girl who came from that family of Christian Scientists - an unknown quantity in predominantly Catholic Montreal.
"Go on," said the Principal. "What exactly did he say?
Zeez squared her shoulders and let it all tumble out.
"Sir, Bobby Fowler said: "How are you BALLS today Balls?" and Sir my father is a member of the Scottish Rite and wears the same ring you do and I don't think it was a very nice thing of Bobby Fowler to say."
Zeez was amazed to see that the entire classroom had completely dissolved into barely repressed laughter. Every face of every boy was smirking smiling or laughing. Worst of all, the Principals face had gone very red. He thundered to his classroom for silence and then looked very seriously at Zeez.
"Thank you Miss Balls. I will take care of this. You are excused."
Word spread through the school very quickly that Bobby Fowler got both the strap and detention. Zeez was never again subject to that particular jab at school but every Sunday when her father was at home, he was called to the telephone for some prank call.
Ah the misfortunes of youth. To young Zeez, Balls had been an illustrious and dignified name. During their time in Victoria, it had always been understood that here was a name steeped in tradition. In Montreal, this had been reduced to a joke and euphemism.
Recounting this story almost 90 years later, Zeez is just as outraged as she was in the original version. She tells me that until she was a married woman, she did not understand what made the grade seven boys laugh. Her husband had to explain it to her.
Ah the indignities of name-calling.