Thanks, Teach’

That’s me and K in 1986 … I’m too rushed & lazy to get his permission to use the unblurred version. Having been to our first Grateful Dead show the summer before, there was only one place I ever wanted to be – and it was not in class in my small suburban farm town. We didn’t normally dress like that but, being class officers, we commandeered the theme of spirit week to allow for as much hippy wardrobing as possible.

I was in love with the idea that the 20 year anniversary of the Summer of Love was upon us. I was in love with a young man who lived 30 minutes away at the state college and did everything I could to be there as often as possible. I was in love with Plato’s Parable of the Cave and completely closed minded towards all the people who I thought were too shallow to get it.

The words behind us on the chalk board say, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. –Tennyson.” God bless the man who put them there. Mr. C.

Mr. C, our AP English teacher. He kept that Tennyson quote up all year long. I think we did it. Strove to enjoy ourselves as much as possible, sought to get decent grades and stay out of trouble while finding maximum fun. No reason to ponder yielding, we were immortal.

Mr. C, also my drama coach all four years of high school, awarded me “Thespian of the Year” in 1987, but I was too busy fleeing All Things Home Town to bother to attend the ceremony. In retrospect, he should have given the award to Alan.

This year, Alan and I met for lunch. Having both lived in Los Angeles for a very long time, and not having seen each other since high school, we were due for a reunion. He reminded me that we had played husband and wife in a theatrical take off on the Adams Family. I had completely forgotten about it. I can understand forgetting mundane details of the past, but forgetting an entire play? One in which I was a prominent character? After he reminded me, my only memory of that show were details of my costume. I wore a very long Elvira wig and a full length black dress, and inches of finger nails — so pointy that undressing for bathroom breaks was nearly impossible. I don’t even have any photos from that show. I’m not fully sure why.

Once, Mr. C bet me I could not write a complete piece on pickles. I can’t find it anywhere but I have a flashing memory of him reading the subsequent essay out loud to the class; his interpretation of my words was engaging. He laughed. In his presence, I felt like I could be good.

Mr. C helped me write the speech I would deliver at graduation–a eulogy for a classmate who died alone in a car accident our senior year. I took a lot of grief for volunteering to give that speech. But it was worth it. In it I said something like, “Although graduation is a time when each of us will go our separate ways, a part of [the deceased] will be with each of us forever.” Was I right? Yes, I think so.

I remember walking in the golf course behind my house being so damned mad at the grass for living.

Mr. C knew me. I think he knew many of his students. Now that I’m probably older than he was when he taught us, I can offer an adult’s approval of that call to action . . . the call to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. It’s right there, behind us . . . written clearly. Pretty much all we needed to learn. My 600 words here don’t come close to processing those years . . . but I’ll remember to strive . . . and not to yield . . . and to publish with pseudonyms.

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This is an entry in Genie Alisa’s Living Out Loud project. You can read this month’s prompt here: Living Out Loud Volume 21: Back to School. Or better yet, check out all the fabulous entries at this month’s recap — here.

4 thoughts on “Thanks, Teach’

  1. Sounds like Mr. C was a great teacher. I strive to be that teacher for my students – just to cause a flicker of understanding – a beginning.

  2. What an amazing teacher. That’s exactly what I strive to be for my students, though I know I’m not there much of the time. But it’s great to have those teachers to remind us just how great we can be, the ones that urge us to truly live life.

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