May 20, 2011
On my mind tonight is a woman I once knew. She taught Psychology and Sociology at my high school, but I didn't have her for either class. I was a PAL, and she was our group sponsor. She was kind and generous, bold and regal and statuesque. She was never afraid of letting us know exactly how she felt, whether it was her bright smile when she was happy or her fierce glare when we'd disappointed her. I only recall that glare happening once in the two years I was a member of the PAL organization. I still remember how it felt to wither helplessly under the angry disappointment in her eyes.
One time, we had to bring something to class that reflected what was most important to us. I brought a pen and confessed to the group my dreams of becoming a writer when I grew up. From then on, my teacher gave me all the creative writing assignments for our group. After I graduated, she gave me a bookmark and the book in the picture above.
I was one student among hundreds, maybe even thousands, that she'd known in her career as a teacher, and she still remembered my dream.
She died ten years ago, in May 2001, just four years after I graduated from high school. Her breast cancer spread and it eventually took her. I went to her funeral and walked up to see her body, and I still can recall the shocking whiteness of her hair and her hands clutching her glasses in her casket. I remember her in death just as clearly as in life. I don't want to remember her dead. I still don't like to think of this world without her.
I read that Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul book once, and for the past ten years it has followed me from place to place. From Texas all the way to California, through my many residences. It's lived a comfy existence on my bookshelf and was never even opened again until just a few days ago. I picked it up, wondering if it was time to let it go. I thought of her and wondered what she'd want me to do with it, felt guilt at the possibility of parting with something she'd given me. And then I put it in our box of things to donate. It's time for some other fledgling writer to read it. Besides, she gave me so much more than that book.
She believed in me. At a time in my life when people had started giving me the side eye when I announced my intentions to become a writer, she gave me permission to hold onto the dream.
I have never let go.
This week Roy and I had A Very Serious Conversation about just what it is I want to do with my life. I told him that I love staying at home with the boys but that I also really want to do this writing thing. I want to write like a motherfucker. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Well then, let's find a way to make this happen."
It's time to live the dream. I think she'd be proud of me.