Saturday, November 26, 2016
Okay, so I got a D in a college class. Big D(eal)!
Let's rewind ...
As you may know, Joyce and I now have an online bookshop--part of the vast network of Advanced Book Exchange. We are D. J. Doodlebug Books (one of Dad's nicknames for me, sans the "Books," which is not a word he often associated with me, I fear); here's a link to the 1500 or so titles we have currently listed. Joyce--who is doing the Lion's Share of the work--adds a few books a day to the list; they add up.
Anyway, yesterday she was preparing to list the book you see at the top of the page--a paperback collection of Wordsworth's poems, an Oxford University Press paperback, 1961 edition. She was flipping through it--as is her wont--looking for marks and annotations, factors she would mention in her sales description.
In the evening, she came in the bedroom, where I was lounging, reading, and she was laughing. She said, "Wasn't this one of your Hiram College textbooks?"
I, looking: "Yes."
Joyce: I don't see any markings in it--whatsoever.
I: Uh, I memorized them all--no need for marks. [Joyce is unimpressed.]
Joyce: Oh, I see some underlinings in "The Prelude."
I: I liked that poem.
Joyce: Here's what you underlined: "... I sought / For present good in life's familiar face, / And built thereon my hopes of good to come" (579).
I: That's the key to the whole thing--why underline anything else?
Joyce: Hmmmmmm. Isn't this a book in that course ...?
I: Yes, Romantic Poets. Hiram College. I got a D.
Joyce: If I'd known that when I met you ... [No, she didn't really say this, but I bet she was thinking it!]
Yes, Poetry of the Romantic Period. (I just checked my transcript to get the official title.) Hiram College. Spring Quarter. 1965 (my junior year). I was also taking Masterpieces of World Literature II. And 20th Century English & American Literature II. In those two courses I did much better. C.
Two C's and a D. Spring term. Junior year. Do I need to add that my parents were not impressed? Or happy? What had they just paid for?!?!
a. Extenuating Circumstances: I had those three courses, right in a row, four days a week: 10:20, 11:30, 12:40. And, of course, you can see that those times permit NO LUNCH. Lunch. One of my favorite meals in college days (often the first meal for which I was awake). My good friends were all there. And friendship, of course, is far more important than mere grades! And so ... I routinely cut my 11:30, my 12:40. (The latter was the seminar about the Romantics.)
I also had realized by that term that I was in love with American literature (as I still am), so, you know, why bother with those boring Brit Romantics?
I was also on the tennis team, and it was important that I keep myself fresh (and well-fed) so that I would not let down my teammates! (Actually, I routinely let them down; I have suppressed my won-loss record that year, but I'll bet I could count my wins on one hand.)
In fact, I was so committed to tennis that one weekend when we had a match (away), I neglected to turn in my term paper (something about Keats; it sucked) until I got back. In those days, the routine was that professors would return graded papers in a pile in Hinsdale Hall on a bench. If you got there early, you could see what other people got on their papers, though I would never have done such a thing. I delayed my visit. I knew the news would not be good.
F. No comments whatsoever--just a bright red F.
I grabbed the paper, took it back to the dorm, tore off the cover sheet (which bore my name), and threw the rest down the trash chute (I was living on the third floor). I shredded, by hand, the title page. And promptly forgot about it all. (Until, of course, the grades arrived in the mail ....)
And, finally, I was trying to create a Love Life. I failed. End of comment.
My parents were annoyed--but generally silent. I think they figured I was old enough to lie in a bed of my own making. I did recover the next year--all A's and B's (okay, one little C), but it was not enough to earn me any scholarship money when I was accepted in the American Studies program at the University of Kansas--the lone grad program I'd applied for (ambitious, eh?).
So ... thank God ... I relied on the teaching certificate I'd earned, and after I graduated, I headed off to teach in the Aurora Middle School, just eleven miles from our Hiram house. And I had there some of the most wonderful years of my life.
In the summer of 1969 I was taking my second course in my master's program (English) at Kent State. I'd gotten serious now. Was working hard. And in that class ... a young woman who'd just graduated from Wittenberg. Joyce Ann Coyne.
So ... had I not messed up at Hiram College that 3rd quarter of my junior year, I might have ended up in Kansas. And would never have met Joyce.
So ... messing up can pay off--Big Time!
Years later, in the mid-1990s, I became obsessed with Frankenstein, with Mary Shelley, and I read all about Wordsworth, Byron, Keats (!), Percy Bysshe Shelley--read all their works--and often thought about that 1965 Me who was plainly incapable of all of it.
So, William Wordsworth, you had a good point ...
"... I sought / For present good in life's familiar face, / And built thereon my hopes of good to come" (579).