--and how could I have resisted?!) Today's outgoing mail also includes a combination Halloween-thank you card for Mr. V, one of my fifth and sixth grade teachers. He was one of my favorites and one of the best. I've found what I'm hoping is really his address and have now offered my long-overdue thanks, which makes me happy.
Mr. V was a sharp dresser and loved dogs and baseball--this was the era of the mid-late 1980s New York Mets and Darryl Strawberry, of whom there was a poster on one of Mr. V's classroom walls--and if I'm remembering correctly, the snazzy red car in the teachers' parking lot was his--but we students loved him because he cared about us, enjoyed us, and was simply one of the good ones. He was the first teacher who really encouraged my art skills. I painted or drew a picture of my Beagle in his class one day, and he not only praised it, but also took it over to a teacher who was visiting his room at the time--the equally wonderful Mr. M--and showed it off to him too. Tradition at our elementary school was that each year, a couple of the sixth grade students were selected to illustrate the cover of the yearbook. Instead of simply telling me in class the next day that I had been one of the two chosen student-artists, he knocked on the door of the other teacher's classroom I was in at the time--this time, dear Mr. G's--and asked if he could speak to me for a moment--He wants to talk to me?! In the hall?!? What did I do?! I didn't do anything! When I stepped into the hall, I found my best friend standing beside him, adding to the pure thrill seconds later when Mr. V announced that she and I would be the ones designing the yearbook cover. He could have just waited to tell us in class, of course, just as he could have notified us separately, but no: Instead he created a moment, and it was, clearly, a memorable one. It is that kind of "small" kindness that stays with a person.
Fifth grade was the year of our using microscopes for the first time too, and he shared our excitement as we saw insects and who-knows-what-else up-close for the very first time. When I asked him after class one day where he bought the tiny lights for the microscopes we used in class, he answered at-length, but all I remember now is that he said that even the little Christmas tree string lights' bulbs would work. That was the first year science ever interested me: I asked my parents for both a cookbook and a microscope that Christmas. There remains the feeling, almost thirty years later, that we all went through the fifth grade together: He experienced it right along with us, as it should be. And my gratitude is much bigger than I could ever express in a greeting card, but he'll be getting one in the mail this week anyway, and I hope it brightens his day as he brightened so many of mine.