We just finished the first quarter. I know, really? That was so fast. Glad it’s not just me.  Anyway, grades get sent home this week.

“Looks like you should start doggin’ the mailman around Thursday.”

That used to be my standard joke line whenever it was report card time. You know, the old intercepting the mail before mom gets it thing?

Alas, in these days of online grades and constant “can Junior get extra credit?” emails, the need for intercepting the mailman has passed. It’s already too late baby. Mom knows. All the “report card” is is a printout of the PowerCheese grades at that particular moment. Usually by the time the grade gets home, it’s already out of date.

Of course, the piece of paper does give Mom something to wave around in their faces.

It’s just not the same as Report Card Day was for us back at St. Mel’s. Some nuns would wait until the end of the day to distribute, and make you squirm and stare at the stack on the desk, imagining all sorts of scenarios. Perhaps worse though (depending on your point of view) were the ones who gave them out at the beginning of the day, and left you to deal with any fallout or dread of consequences all through the day.

Back in 2011, I turned fifty. Of course my mom had to come visit. And she came bearing more than gifts…

(November 2011)

Of course my parental units also had to visit for my fittieth birthday. (I tell the kids that as a certified English teacher, I have a license to make up and misuse words. Most of them believe it.)  And here’s Mom sporting my 7th grade report card from the school year 1973-1974.

So let’s deconstruct this “artifact.”


First it comes in one of those tight-fitting envelopes with the little curved notches in the top for ease of sliding the card out. Mom didn’t spring for a yearbook that year, so the envelope has a bunch of signatures and a couple of “see ya next year’s.” It’s also signed by Dean Martin, right above my best friend’s signature. I don’t remember Deano hanging out at Mel’s. I think that’s the logo for the diocese. We were the Saints, but we didn’t have a logo.

1. Old school typewriting, typed by our school secretary (mom of a classmate, and as scary as the nuns). St. Mel was St. Patrick’s cousin.

2. Dunno why the COWARD is in all caps. She does that on the inside too.

Now, let’s look inside.

1. There’s that all caps thing again. Must be intentional.

2. Knowledge of Religion. Catholicism from the infallible pope anyway. My mom taught CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine– generically known as catechism) to those public school kids who were missing out on all that valuable info. At least I didn’t have to sit through it on Saturdays.

3-6. Check this out baby. Four, count ’em, four grades devoted to language arts. Reading was mostly SRA. Literature was mostly novels, discussions, and book reports. English was grammar and punctuation with the Warriner’s book. And an entire, separate grade just for spelling. The kids were dying at that one. We had spelling bees all the time.

7. Foreign language was French. And all our nuns came from the same county in Ireland, where their native language was Gaelic. They used to jabber at each other about us in Gaelic all the time. So imagine French with the hard-core Gaelic accent. No wonder that in high school, Fr. Prat couldn’t cope with my pronunciation.

8. Sr. Kieran was also the principal. She was also one of the more compassionate ones. I happened to flub a test the day after I got a ticket on my bike in front of the whole school. That didn’t have anything to do with my flubbing the test, but she thought it did (and I let her), and she cut me a break. I always liked her for that. All the nuns were Sr. Mary.

Let’s move to facing side.

9. I think Sr. Enda was a bit off. She could swing from sweet and helpful to snarling and vengeful in a heartbeat. “W – I – L and D…That’s what Enda goes at me, WILD!” That was one of our little chants at lunchtime and before school.

10. A grade for handwriting! God, I hated that cursive stuff. Just touching the line, this much of a loop, but not too much. Capital freaking Q! Luckily it wasn’t a letter grade so it didn’t hurt my GPA. I was very competitive that way.

11. I wasn’t very good at the zither and I fooled around too much when we were supposed to be singing Red River Valley. Luckily, the music lady, who was somebody’s mom and also the art lady, didn’t get to give her own grade for conduct. I did scourge Jesus rather smartly in my role as a guard in our lip-synch production of Jesus Christ Superstar. But I guess since it wasn’t actually a speaking role–the other guard at least got to grunt and gloat–it wouldn’t have helped my grade.

12. I still have a folder of shtuff from then. That was also when I made my 8mm cartoon. Again, lucky for all of us, she didn’t get to give her own conduct grade. She called us play-babies once. Forever after we mocked her with it.

13. Sr. Enda got to give this grade. Notice the sudden jump at the end of the year. Must have had something to do with “consequences” or something. I may have blocked this period from my mind.

14. Attitude and effort at home gets a grade! At home! Love that one.

15. And my fave…the 93% for an A. I had that in high school too. I remember getting to college and seeing that 90% for an A thing, and thinking to myself that I was on easy street. Hahahaha fat chance…I was an electronic engineering student back then…before I saw the light.

Anyway, that was kind of fun.