Riding on the greenway I spotted a late season herb. Weed. That’s what most folk call the goldenrod. Its golden head swayed gently in the breeze. I could not understand why so few appreciated its delicate late-season blossoms. You might say I am unusually partial to goldenrod.
Weeds we had aplenty on the farm, and there were goldenrod galore in the autumn fence rows. Their blooms signaled another event — the coming of school.
Perhaps I should be ashamed to say that I am a teacher today considering how foreign that is to the free life of the farm boy. Perhaps I should blame the goldenrod for ruining me.
I don’t mean the herbs ruined me. No. It was the tablets that ruined me.
During those first two grades of school we were given the two instruments of my corruption: a fat number 2 lead pencil and a tablet. Maybe it was a number 1 lead pencil, since it almost slid across the page. The tablet was no ordinary tablet. To this day I have found none to match this tablet. It was half legal pad and half artist’s pad. It was the Goldenrod pad.
I can say that I am grateful my childish scratches and scrawls were fed to the coal stove. I don’t believe I could bear to see the products of my labor today. My childhood friend had the perfect method of carrying his papers home. He would wad his papers into a ball and thrust them deep in his pockets. When I suggested I do the same, I was threatened with bodily harm. My papers needed to be inspected before they fed the winter fires.
By third grade my printing and my yellow pads were sidelined. Cursive was the thing to learn, and it needed to be neatly written on white lined notebook paper.
Why, why, why did I ever take delight in filling a page with characters to express my thoughts and feelings? Were there worms in the Goldenrod pads that attached themselves to my liver? I may never know.
I have always considered it a great irony that a friend who works for the EPA has an allergic reaction to most pollen including oak, maple, ragweed, and goldenrod. Goldenrod just makes my fingers restless.