I have a tendency and a skill, you might call it, to bring almost any topic at all back to my central need for affection. For example, I recently began thinking about an important lesson I learned in life and how oddly it took place. The lesson was not really a bona fide lesson at all, it was essentially a make-work, keep-‘em-occupied activity to which I was introduced when I moved, as a child, from one third-grade classroom to a third grade class in another school.
I moved from kindly, Mrs. Sullivan’s class at Samuel Huntington school to rigid, ruffles-to-the-chin, blue-haired, baggy-eyed, frightening Miss Cochoran’s class at Buckingham Elementary. That October, as I appeared in class, I was introduced to a special activity that all the students did, every day, from the time the students entered the class room until the opening exercises officially started classes. It was a period of 15-20 minutes, depending upon the arrival time of the student.
The special activity? On a piece of lined foolscap paper, the students were expected to begin writing numbers in sequence down the paper, draw a vertical line to make a new column, start at the top and just keep counting. Page after page, each and every morning, all year long, we busily, quietly counted. But a funny thing happened to me during this process, a process that many students abhorred. I began to see patterns emerge, number patterns. So that by the time we got to the dreaded times tables, I used logic as much as memory to simply count by sevens, for example. 7,14,21,28,35,42,49,56,63…easy. It could be done with any single digit number, and the single digits had a way of influencing the double digits, and so on.
Since I went into art, I can’t say how this specifically helped me in life, but it made it generally easy for me to understand basic number theory, such that I aced Algebra One and Algebra Two in high school, I passed The Study of Axiom Systems at Southern Connecticut State, and I didn’t shy away from voluntarily taking and doing well in Nuclear Physics and Astronomical Physics at Queens University.
It was also evident to me, as I watched early manned space launches in which NASA’s curious techno-speak, “We have T minus 21 minutes and counting,” made sense to me.
Where T = telemetry, (which must always be calculated) and blast-off = zero and the start of positive numbers that track the time of the moving telemetric progress. Logical.
Counting. Seeing the numbers on the page. Seeing the patterns on the page.
Oh! How does this relate to my central need for affection? This is going to sound childish and silly beyond imagining to people who are, “Beyond all that,” but like Popeye, “I yam what I yam,” and I doubt that I will ever be ‘beyond all that.’
My new girlfriend has promised to visit all day with me today. My new girlfriend seems to be as eager about bestowing and receiving affections as I am! And my countdown to her arrival has proceeded in NASA-like steps, such is my eager anticipation of seeing her again. I woke up in the night, looked at my bedside clock, noted the time, did the math, noted in my head, “Seven hours, twenty minutes until she arrives.”
Thank you, Miss Cochoran, wherever you may be!