This has been sitting in my list waiting to be edited since July 22, 2011. I only mention this to encourage you fellow procrastinators out there. You know who you are.
Lately many things have been reminding me how lucky I am to have grown up where and when I did. If you don't know that you already won a lottery by being born in America, think about that for a minute. The odds are not great, when you think about how big the world is. Add in the rate of abortions and the odds get a lot slimmer. So if you are born in America, as far as I am concerned, you are already extremely lucky.
In addition to being born an American, I was also lucky enough to split my childhood between two small Missouri towns, so everywhere I went, everybody knew me. Or at least who I belonged to, which will go a long way toward having no need for a formal police force, as any one from a small town will tell you.
Most of my teachers in high school were long time residents and graduates of our small school, so there was not a lot of political correctness observed. Of course these were days before political correctness, the 80's to be exact. In fact, most of us were related one way or another, and it was not uncommon for one teacher or another to lecture us as if we were their own children. Don't get me wrong, they were our teachers, and we knew that. But they were also our neighbors, relatives, and elders, and they took their jobs seriously in that they brought us up and trained us as if they were going to be living beside us for the rest of their lives. In other words, we were brought up the right way. We were held accountable. We learned that to try to pull the wool over their eyes was futile, and that the odds of our parents taking our side against theirs were slim indeed. Where there are few people, there is often much sense. I believe this strongly.
So, about 6 years ago I had agreed to meet a girl I grew up with for supper to catch up. We went up to the local Pub and got seated, as it happens, at a table adjacent to where one of our high school teachers was sitting. The Pub was owned by her son, who is also a distant cousin to at least me if not my friend also. You get the picture? There are no strangers around here, not for long. I do not want to embarrass her so I will not name her here, as anyone who knows her will not need the name provided. Not that she should be embarrassed, but she is a lady, and I was raised never to put one in a compromising position. Ahem, (a nod to my former superintendent, who as far as I am concerned pretty much walked on water.) But I digress...
My friend and I had at this time two daughters about 13 and 14 years old. We proceed to dive into a discussion of how horrible our girls are behaving, how outrageous their clothes choices,and how they were driving us completely crazy. Between the laughter and the (mostly) suppressed cussing, were having a really good conversation. At one point, my friend is trying to find words to express her feelings on the length of a skirt her daughter tried to leave the house in and is speechless.
I look at her and say "I said the words, "Not while I'm still living."... with a wide eyed look that intimated that was the end of the line and I was now my mother (a notion that had hounded me all my life and I was beginning to make peace with). I knew she understood all that this implied. Mainly, we were now old, man.........and at that point our former teacher ( and neighbor, and distant relative) bursts out laughing, wipes her eyes, and says "I'm sorry girls.........I just cannot tell you how good it is to see you two here and know that you have teenagers now! It's just so gratifying......." laughing hysterically.
We looked at each other and told her we were getting to the age where we could understand her perfectly well! It struck me how refreshing it was to be called a girl again, and I felt such comfort. I knew that I was not alone. I also knew that while my only teacher had only sons, she had invested her time for decades trying to prepare us girls for the experiences my friend and I had just been discussing. Not because the former teacher had to, but because she had known, when we did not, exactly what was going to come to us, regardless of what path we chose in life. This led to much reminiscing that night.
That teacher was the one who told me and the rest of my class that women were never to wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Being the children of the first generation of women to work, that information had gotten lost in the shuffle. In those days I was under the impression that we were not going to have to know how to garden or can food because we were going to work. We were going to have careers. If I gave any thought to who would raise our children, I do not remember it. I probably was still under the impression that the pill worked without fail.
I hope you can see that I have come full circle.
I can remember that teacher also telling us how important it was for us, especially as women, to take some time at the end of the day to have things just be quiet for awhile. She said life provided enough background noise and if we went to bed listening to music, we wouldn't get any quiet time and it was essential. We rolled our eyes at the time. Now I can only hope she knows how much I appreciate everything she ever told me, if belatedly. She might be surprised at how much I remember, and I would hope she would also be gratified. She should be. She worked for hardly any wages at all and little retirement for no other reason than that she was born to teach. I would like to thank her and all my teachers for their service. I hope they know that it was not in vain.l
The older I get, the more I realize how much I have always been surrounded by people who have had my own best interest in mind, even when I didn't. This was just one teacher, and just one moment, where she got to know for sure that not only were we getting everything we deserved, but we were handling it appropriately. If I didn't feel like a grown up before then, I certainly did then.
I proudly take my place with the older ladies. I have finally earned it, and it has been worth it.
Thank you for giving me a good example and insisting that I follow it, even if it meant yelling at or embarrassing me. The world would have been a much harder teacher, and without you I would have been woefully unprepared.
You taught me not only that I didn't know everything, but to have the respect to listen to another side ( a miracle with teenagers and an example I have struggled to match with raising my own). This was enough, but to listen to me complain about my own and to be on my side when I came full circle? There are no words. There is only me and all the other kids you taught, continuing the lessons we were taught so well.