In second grade at St. Patrick's, Sister had seated her in the last seat of the back row in the back corner of the classroom, right next to the wide glass back door of the room that led to the outside and was always open when the weather was nice.
My mother often felt bored during school, and one day when Sister had her back turned my mother slipped out the open back door of the classroom and out of the school.
Not sure at first what to do with herself for the rest of the day, she came up with the idea of going to the movies.
Of course she was only 7 years old and had no money, but that turned out not to be a problem because at that time her Aunt Mary, her father's sister, worked at the box office of the movie theater so my mother knew everyone who worked at the theater and they knew her.
On this particular afternoon the theater doorman, seeing little Romaine Fey wandering about by herself in the middle of the afternoon, let her into the theater to watch the show.
Such a fine time did my mother have that afternoon that she got into the habit of slipping out of the classroom and going to the movies whenever she felt bored. She never got caught. Her mother never found out. And neither Sister nor anyone else ever said anything to her about her AWOL afternoons, something my mother wondered about from time to time years later. Why was my mother not missed? Was it because there were over 40 children in that large classroom? Was it that Sister knew she was missing a student but had no idea what to do about it? Was she relieved to have one less little charge to deal with? Who can say?
In any case, the theater staff continued letting my mother in to spend the afternoon watching movies whenever she took a notion to do so.
Subsequently my mother enjoyed her second grade experience at St. Patrick's and saw lots of movies.
But things changed when she started her second year of second grade at the public school.
She no longer sat in the back corner of the room near a door. In fact she soon found herself with a permanent spot at the front of the class because in this school the students were seated front row to back row according to their report card grades. Based on her grades my mother always sat in the first row, therefore directly in the teacher's line of vision - something not lost on my mother, who believed that from then on she didn't dare be anything less than attentive during class. Thus my mother got into an auspicious cycle that lasted for the rest of her elementary school career: she was seated in the front row because she was a good student and she had to be a good student because she was seated in the front row. And in this school the classroom doors opened not to the outdoors but into the hallway of the building, anyway.
So my mother no longer got to make her escape from those long afternoons sitting at a desk and learning the things you couldn't learn from a movie screen.
Who knows how things would have transpired in my mother's life if her mother had been able to continue to afford a place in the back of the classroom at St. Patrick's?
Maybe, inspired by all the hours spent watching movies, my mother would have run off to Hollywood to become an actress and would have been in many glamour shots: