12 October 2015 – Monday with Margaret Reish Downing

New Beginnings

By Margaret Reish Downing

Margaret R. Downing with Rex



September 1958. It was the first day of school. As was customary, Blythe School students collected outside the school entrance at 8 AM. Starting with first graders, the teachers called out the names of those children who were assigned to them for the coming year.


We fifth graders were all abuzz with the news that a new teacher, Miss Martin, had been a runner up in the Miss South Carolina pageant. Like everyone else, I prayed that the pretty Miss Martin would call my name! Imagine, having a celebrity teaching you Arithmetic and How to Diagram Sentences!


My wildest hopes were realized: I was assigned to Miss Martin’s fifth grade class.


Miss Martin was slim and porcelain skinned, and wore her brunette hair in a longish pageboy. She told us that she was a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and shared an apartment with girlfriends. She spoke with a soft Southern accent.


We had a lot in common. I planned to go to college! I would someday have my own apartment! In fact, I would someday earn $200 a weekI I would have liked to be Miss America 1968 as well, but as I had no relevant talents, like baton twirling, I knew that was a long shot.


Miss Martin retired after a year of teaching, opting for marriage and motherhood. It was then I began to grapple with the question of how I could be a glamorous career woman like her, and a wife and mother — at the same time.


I never figured it out. Years later, as a working mother, I was simply exhausted, even though I had child care and a husband who did his share and then some. And that book about how to do more in less time I kept by my bedside? The central message was — Sleep less! Hah! How could I sleep less? But I digress. All I know is that I was temporarily insane, a condition Miss Martin, who must now be close to 80, could never understand.


Even though I am now a retiree and live in Baja, I still perk up at this time of year. The long summer is finally ending: Our friends who left town to get away from the heat are beginning to return to the South Campos. Restaurants are reopening, community activities are back on the schedule. The temperatures are cooling. It won’t be long until I am ready to sharpen my pencils, polish my shoes, and get back to school.


miss martin

[Editor’s Note:  This is not Miss Martin; I took it off the Internet]


2 Responses to “12 October 2015 – Monday with Margaret Reish Downing”
  1. Sam Grubb

    When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to be President. That was before Donald Trump entered the race. Delightful read.

    • Margaret Downing

      Well, Sam, you DO have great hair! And thanks!

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