Saturday, August 28, 2010
First Grade Teacher
I reached across her and opened the door. She got out slowly and stood with her back to me, looking up at the building on the hill. Now I was supposed to drive nonchantly away.
'So long, Sherry,' I said.
She turned her head, and suddenly that wonderful flood of love and humor came up behind her eyes.
'Don't be scared, Daddy ' she said. 'I'll be back.' and she went climbing up into the blue infinity of the morning."
--Arthur Gordon, from A Touch of Wonder
Remember your first day at school? We had no pre-school program way back when--so first grade was the beginning. Getting ready for that first day was a very big deal.
Every year it would be the same. My mother and I rode the bus three miles to downtown. . She would take me and a little later my brother when he got ready for school to Metcalf’s. I think back it must have been a boy’s and men’s clothing store. She bought what they then-called broadcloth shirts. Mostly checkered--all cotton--probably three in number. She also bought me a pair or two of knickers which she thought were cool. She was always big on underwear and I am sure into that bad went a couple of pair of under shorts. I don’t know where the money came from. Maybe she charged them--maybe she had put them on lay-away weeks before and we simply paid the rest that we owed and came home with my treasures.
She would wash, starch and iron those shirts. No washing machine and certainly no dryer. This work was all done by hand. But she was determined that her boys would look nice and be clean. We didn’t have much money but we had an awful lot of pride.
So that first morning my Mother had left her job in the mill across the street to take me to school. The school was two blocks away. I as no stranger to the school because it was across the street from our church. A bell would toll and that was the signal to come to school. She took me by the hand and walked me up the street.
I didn’t know then what she probably knew. Her first bird was beginning even then to leave the nest. He would fly out into a larger world. He would be no baby anymore. Doors and windows would open and nothing would be as it was. I don’t remember her crying. I do remember her was very quiet.
I don’t remember much after that about that first day. I do recall thinking my teacher was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Average height, freckled face, dishwater blonde hair, not very large. Betty Grable did not hold a candle to my teacher, Miss Beggs.
I hardly remember the teachers after that for several years. But I have never forgotten the woman with the kind face that first open the door to learning and education and wonder. I often thought what would have happened had she been mean or harsh. She never was.
So, as school begins I say prayer for every teacher. What a job they have. What a challenge--especially in those first tender years. They don’t get paid enough. They have problems of their own--but I tip my hat to all those who will be called teacher this year. And every September as I see the boys and girls on my street get on the school bus I remember Miss Beggs.