This morning I ran into Scarlet’s first grade teacher walking her students into school, and I realized with shock that she will pretty soon be “two teachers ago” for Scarlet. It breaks my heart! Add in Des’ preschool graduation, and I can’t..do it.
- In kindergarten, my mom made my reading teacher cry. Oh, maybe I shouldn’t tell this story, lest you think my mom is a bully. She’s not. My reading teacher was also not a bully. I DO remember her having very cranky eyes. (seriously, I wrote that in my diary) During a phone conference and unaware of a too-recent tragedy in my life, my teacher told my mom that I looked sad all of the time, looked out the window, and didn’t do my work. My mom snapped back, “Well gee, maybe it’s because she just watched her father fall down and die.” I think, but I don’t know, that my reading teacher’s cranky eyes turned sad. I know she gave me what I needed after that and that soon, I read better than most of my class.
- In 1st grade, my teacher was 102-years-old. No, really. (maybe 70?) She kept a little parakeet named LGB. (Little Green Bird). One day the sixth grade teacher’s class pet tarantula escaped and bit into some wires in the gym. (I can’t make this stuff up) It caused some sort of fire or smoke or gas problem and we were all evacuated and sent home for about seven years while they rebuilt the school. Actually I fact-checked with my mom and it was only about a weekend or so. When we came back, my childhood best friend and I both noticed that LGB had different feathers. All I know is that my teacher gave us a look that could probably still make me jump, and told us to never, ever tell anyone else what we saw.
- Second grade. I used to think my 2nd grade teacher was so old and really, she was under 30. She was probably around 25 or so! A mere baby! Oh, how our perspectives are funny sometimes. She had a chipmunk statue I played with.
- In third grade, I was teacher’s pet, for perhaps the first time in life. It was when I first learned, as I keep learning throughout life, is that I’m a fierce, competitive, driven achiever if all conditions are right. If not, well I look sad and stare out the window a lot when I’m supposed to be learning. My teacher used to actually say to other students, “Follow Tammy’s example. Do exactly what she’s doing” about pretty much anything I did. I was a temporary rockstar.
- Fourth grade. I had an actual witch as a teacher. She made me cry harder when I was already crying. She drowned our class pet crickets because she didn’t like their chirping. And, she was let go from our school. However, my warrior mother had already had me placed nicest woman on the planet’s class. You can check her credentials against other nice people you know. She was always happy and we played games and since we had a tortuous 1:00 pm lunchtime, she’d always make sure we didn’t go hungry. One day her eyes were red from crying all day. No one else mentioned it. That night I slaved away on a card for her, writing that I noticed she was sad and that it hurt my heart. I added a little box of pink and white M&Ms I had gotten from my dad’s work. I snuck it onto her desk at the end of the next day. She called later that night to thank me and tell me I had a way of expressing myself through writing that touched her heart..
- My fifth grade teacher told me if I didn’t become a writer, she’d eat her own arm. She thought that my writing was so sad, so that I didn’t have to be. I filled up dozens of black and white marbled composition books in her class. One day I wrote a story about the man in the moon who smiles at good people and literally moons bad people. I know she talked about it in the teacher’s lounge because other teachers would ask me to read my story. One night recently I told that story to Scarlet before bedtime. We both got the giggles for a long time before sleep finally took over.
- In sixth grade, I had many teachers. One was amazing. He was/is(?) seriously gifted. Funny, heartfelt, caring, intuitive. I had a really rough time that year, amid more pretty and more achieving peers. He knew I’d find myself one day and he told me so. One day he had his amazing daughter have lunch with a few of us and she stopped lunch, pointed at me and asked, “Who is that, Daddy? She’s pretty.” I was so unaware that in any reality she could be talking about me that I hunched over my sandwich and didn’t look up. And, I must have looked ungrateful but I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was the epitome of gawky. I took it to new levels. Maybe he told her to say that. I doubt it. She was only six or so.
After that, there were always many teachers. Team teaching in middle school. High school and college. I never forgot a teacher or professor. One was a former Chippendales dancer, the rumors stated. He had a rivalry with another of our teachers and they would have us pull pranks on the other. I’m talking tampons in his desk drawer. These are the things you never forget. These teachers of our lives. They see the rawest sides of us, at times, and we see that of them, at times. There is an attachment. To be honest, I’m so bad with change I don’t know how I got through the graduations. I suppose the wonder that is summer vacation kept me happy and distracted for all that I was giving up in cozy and familiar classrooms.