I often think back to the school years I spent in Israel.
I wonder if my children will carry their own memories of their lives in the classroom.
If I stretch, beyond the playground memories of M. clearing-up after the flood or the distraught Maths or French teachers who, reaching breaking-point, became overwhelmed by our rowdy mischief. I also remember, I.
Now, I. wasn’t a teacher. He was our teacher’s husband.
My memory is of one afternoon in their living-room at home.
It must have been the last year of our middle-school, which was somewhere around 1989.
We as a class, helped by the teacher and her husband had written a play to mark the end of our time at the school.
The play consisted of a number of scenes involving the story of Israel, with new immigrants arriving at the port in Haifa (I still have the brown-leather flat-cap I borrowed from my dad; it is in my garage in Doncaster), some war/battle scenes, through to a re-enactment of an episode of school life where we as a group of wild-but-nice boys raided a strawberry field, day after day.
Hiding underneath plastic tarpaulins, we gorged.
I can’t remember how many forays there were to the field or whether we did this over more than one season.
The final time we went the farmer was waiting and caught a number of us. I don’t think he hit anyone too hard, more probably shaking by the arm and shouting; I remember he was from Yemen.
The story became legend, with the strawberry fields and the chase frozen into my memory.
In the living room, I. who had a theatrical past – perhaps he had been involved in amateur plays, was supporting the production.
None of this really matters as that wasn’t the memory.
I can tell you they had black and white photos of their relatives on the walls of their house, that and a central coffee table is the extent of the detail I have held onto.
And, oh, I. He was wearing sandals and shorts.
It was probably late-May, when the weather in Israel is starting to become quite warm.
Now, the memory, was of I’s left testicle dangling from his shorts.
Saggy, drooping down his leg.
We, the children, probably 15 years old at the time found this hilarious. No one said anything. How could you?
Yet, I now reflect, I. back in 1988 was somewhere around 45 at the youngest, probably in his early 50’s.
That isn’t much older than I am now.
I can’t imagine a situation where I would sit at home with a room full of school children and allow my testicle to hang-out.
Sure, I have encountered old men who let themselves go, yet, this lack of self-awareness seems odd.
It surely was not intentional – a form of auto-erotic exposure. I can’t believe it.
I remember him and his wife as being a lovely, caring, dedicated couple.
My teacher, R’s smile in particular, warm and proud of our academic accomplishments.
Yet, the testicle.
I wonder how long this will stay with me.
I am sure were a similar situation to arise, say, my own kids experiencing exposed genitalia there would be a safeguarding investigation.
Then again, they have never visited any of their teacher’s homes.
It is a different world.
The weather is never that hot in South Yorkshire.
Upside down and better in some ways, but mostly lesser. Diminished.
Their memories will be their own.