RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA — Miss Gizzi gets that look on her face and says be quiet, everyone please be quiet, but how can you be quiet when there's just one day left, one tiny day, a few fidgety hours before the magic and freedom and endless twirling days of summer?
Summer. The word is like the sweetest candy in your mouth. It makes you squirm and giggle--you clap a hand over your mouth, but too late, the giggle already slipped out--and you'd better be careful, because Miss Gizzi might give you a pink card, which means you're bad, or a blue card, which means you're really bad, and if you're bad enough she might not even send you on to third grade, who knows.
You're one of about 440,000 Orange County public school students who have spent the last week watching the clock, studying the calendar, gazing out the window. In Santa Ana, they got out last Thursday. In Orange, last Friday. But in Miss Gizzi's second-grade class at Arroyo Vista Elementary School, in Rancho Santa Margarita, this was the day to end all days.
Tuesday! The morning starts, and you know that when the big hand hits the 12 and the little hand touches the two, those massive doors will fly open at last, letting you and all your friends run for daylight like a jailbreak of 4-foot-tall prisoners, and this room where you've spent one-seventh of your life will vanish completely from your thoughts, like the front tooth you lost last week.
Just hours to go.
"Miss Gizzi," says a plaintive voice from behind a raised hand. "Can we count down the last 10 seconds and then shout: 'THIRD GRADE!'?"
We'll see, she says, getting that look, asking everyone again to please be quiet please.
"You're not showing good self-control right now," she says, "and I can't send you to third grade until you show good self-control."
For a second, maybe two, there is total silence. Then, a giggle, followed by a murmur and an urgent whisper. Something that needed to be said right now, something that couldn't wait until recess.
Maybe you could concentrate on schoolwork if there weren't so many things to watch and smell and think about this week, like the commencement music from the sixth-grade graduation down the hall, music that sounds brassy and important, like the Future. Even more distracting is the boy in the back of the class who's picking his nose. Then there's Matt, who's suddenly discovered a talent for reading upside down, which cracks up Cameron, who turns his book upside down, too, and before you know it half the class is reading upside down and laughing, some of them throwing their heads back and cackling like Snoopy.
"Everybody's doing cartwheels," says an exasperated Brianna, watching the mounting mutiny among her peers. "Everyone's all wild. You can't concentrate on what you're working on, and Miss Gizzi gets all grumpy."
Does she ever. When Miss Gizzi smiles at you it feels like your heart might explode, but when she frowns at you it's like the room temperature just dropped a few degrees Fahrenheit, or Celsius, both of which you learned about this year, along with other cool stuff, like the world's longest river, the four forms of energy (five if you count second-graders) and the incredible beauty of the English sentence.
Sometimes, you feel like even if you live to be 120, which you probably will, you'll never forget Miss Gizzi, whose first name is Tracy, and who shares this classroom with her former sorority sister from San Diego State University, Miss Hoffman, along with Miss Hoffman's 20 students, making it 42 people crammed into one room. On days like this, all that human energy threatens to melt the murals right off the walls.
Miss Hoffman's first name is Amy, and she's kind of like Miss Gizzi, but kind of different, the way Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" is like Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," but also different. Miss Hoffman loves Starbucks coffee and pretty shoes and lame jokes, and sometimes she starts singing into a bullhorn, loud songs like, "Don't cry for me, Argentina!" When she's really happy she hops up on the desks and dances, which makes you laugh so hard you think you might pass out.
"Our last day with the craziest teacher on Earth," says Kristy, who is 7 going on 17 and wears different color nail polish on each nail and walks up and down the playground at recess, telling everyone and no one, "I'm a model."
Watching her, the boys don't blink, which impresses Kristy's friend Kasidy, who throws her hands above her head and declares herself the most "dramatic" person in school, then brags about having no bedtime, and a boyfriend, and anything else to get the attention off Kristy and back where it belongs, on herself.
Kristy and Kasidy think they might be the most personable students in the class, but they have lots of competition, like Roxanne, who wishes the year would end so she could get on with her life plans, which include becoming a flutist, tennis player, artist, singer and dancer.