My Teacher, My Friend
Old friends and new places. This is where I find myself today. When I was in high school, I had an english teacher who believed in kids. She thought we had minds that could absorb different thoughts and ideas. She was sure that we were worth the effort, putting her entire heart and mind into our future even though we surely didn’t know it. I think her energies were youthful as well, even though when you are a kid, every adult seemed closer to 100 than 1.
I always found her voice intriguing, soft, and she had immaculate pronunciation. When we were juniors, she read us “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. I never cared if I was late to a class, but not this one. I would try and be early so I could get a front row seat. It was the first class of the day, and I was never on time but I made it early for this one. We read about Scout, Boo, it was when I first read about rape. From the first day, I was sucked in to this beautiful tale of love, acceptance, and fairness. . This cemented that dream, and I wanted my teacher to think I had some talent. I wanted her to read a story I had written, a story with that type of love for the story, to be admired for my work.
For many years after, I spoke of this teacher, the book, and the way she read it. The way she loved the story, and made me love it as well. Harper Lee didn’t follow this story up with another, even though it would have been worth so much money. But the story had been told, it was complete and perfect just the way she left it. That is the integrity I was going to strive for in my writing career. I would never do a sequel just for the sake of monetary gain. I say that, but I can also understand how a big check in front of you, with all that would be needed to accept that money is to write a second part of a story that has already been told. But money speaks loudly, even shouts. And when you have tried for so long to make it, and money is flashed, it would take a lot to turn it down. Harper Lee did just that. That was taught to us in that class: Integrity in your work.
I lost track with this teacher for many years until about a year ago we reconnected. Now as adults, she is a friend, a mentor, and mostly a gift to me and my son. We are sitting here in her house, helping her set up an author's page, and getting set up as an author with an amazing manuscript. She remains a beautiful woman that is retired, and she is filled with knowledge of human historic importance. She understands why people have the flaws and insecurities that are manifested in the world today. Her voice is still pitch perfect, and if I close my eyes while she speaks, I am sitting in a classroom listening to her read. Those were really wonderful times for me.
Friends. We have the new kind that we may never see in person but we love. We have the friends that have known us for longer than we want them to. Who knows your flaws, your defeats more than these people? And then we have friends where the relationship morphed from teacher/student, to two adults sharing experiences, dreams, and laughter. They are mixed with the new issues that face us as new AARP members. The parents lost, the people we knew who passed far too early or tragically. And we even share our dreams that have developed from idealist platforms to naked truths of how difficult it really is to age. These are the mature relationships that will make us better because we are always able to learn. You must start with an open mind, a soft heart, and wide open arms to embrace when saying hellos or farewells.
It started so many years ago, one teacher reading maybe the real “American novel”. One young girl who became mesmerized in what a really good book sounds like. A teacher speaking of the art of writing, and doing it because you love words more than sunshine. The meaning of saying “no” to money because it it flashed in front of us. Even if it means fame, don’t sell yourself or what is good just for a bank draft. I learned that from her.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a moment in my life where I saw the beauty of school, of learning. I close my eyes and hear those words, I am instantly young again, life good and dreamy. Then, I open my eyes. We are both much older, but we are true friends. I owe much of my life, the writer I have become, and the person I will aim to become. All of this because I heard the most wonderful story when I was in high school. Forever grateful dear friend Mindy. I am so happy we are friends. Thank you for reading to me. You are why teachers are so important, you are the reason. You, are my friend.