I was rubbing paste wax into the wood of my piano yesterday, don't know how it dries out so badly when it's so humid here, when I glanced over at the antique school desk sitting next to it and realized I really needed to clean the black wrought iron on it. So I got a rag, some cleaner and a paint brush to get inside all the scrolls and set to work.
As I worked on it I thought about where it had come from, it wasn't my old school desk, though I'd had one like it when I went to school in Oakland, CA. No, it had belonged to my Mother-in-law Patty. She'd gone to school at Hayward Grammar School (later renamed Markham Elementary after a local poet and school principal) and when the school was town down in 1953 (it had been built in 1904) she went and got one of the desks.
Patty had loved school getting to attend only part-time because her family picked crops for a living and she had to leave school to follow the crops with them. At 13, having completed 8th grade, her family had her leave school entirely so she could work full time, this was in 1926.
She loved to read and though her formal education stopped early her life-long love of reading continued and she always had books around to read. When she died in 1990 we brought some of her books to our house and I've always wondered about one of them, Patty Goes To College. I've wondered if she identified with the young girl in the book and wished that she too could have gone to college.
I know that she and my Father-in-law both valued education and though neither of them had much of an opportunity to attend, all 4 of their sons graduated from High School and Mac and his younger brother George both graduated from college, with Mac adding on a Master's Degree. I know she was very proud of all of her sons.