Friday, July 27, 2007

A Teacher Then and Now

Mrs. Hawking was my first grade teacher. I thought she was ancient at the time, but she is still living today. She was a widower and would wear her beautiful white/gray hair pulled up in a bun in the Pentecostal fashion. She would also wear long flowery print dresses that she made herself upon her sewing machine. She was a teacher from a different era - a kinder, more gentler time when everyday life moved at a slower pace. This kinder, more gentler time was reflected in the way she would sit with me after school in the afternoons helping me with my spelling and reading. As with most things in life, I was late to the party for these things as well. I struggled with the simple Sally, Dick, and Jane readers that most kids had long since moved on from. "Try to associate the words with pictures in your mind," Mrs. Hawking would tell me as she patiently guided me through reading these simple little books. Slowly, but surely, I would grow to read with aplomb by the end of the year due much to the diligence and guidance of Mrs. Hawking.

Many years passed and I was a grown man. The scene was my grandmother's visitation for her funeral. It was a sad time and many tears were shed as we said our goodbyes to a great woman. I was standing next to the casket as I reached out to hold my dead grandmother's cold and clammy hand. I felt an arm wrap around me as I turned to look. It was Mrs. Hawking. "I thought I should be here for your father and you," she said with a reserved smile. I was so glad to see her and those long ago days of staying after school with her came flooding back.

"What are you doing with yourself these days?" she asked as we stepped aside, away from the coffin.

"I am a writer," I said, but the main reason I said that was I was out of work and I didn't know what else to say. It felt pretentious. I didn't really think of myself as a writer at the time although I wrote everyday in my paper journal and had been dabbling in short stories for years.

"What kind of writing?"

"Nonfiction," I said, having learned that saying this in response to that question seemed to satisfy most people without further questions.

"You always had it in you," she told me, so proud of how far I had come from those hard after-school sessions of slogging through the English language.

"I couldn't have done it without you," I replied, and she left me to go sign the guest book and leave after a few more moments of reflection and reminiscing.

I watched as she walked out of the funeral home and remarked at how she still had an aura of teacher about her. She had long since retired and was in her eighties now. She was still teaching in these advanced years. Not of simple things like dotting your I's or crossing your T's, but of lessons in life and kindness, and being there for your fellow person in a time of need. Her legacy lives on after all these years in my just being able to write this. I wish she could read my writings today. I think she would be proud.


Grad007 said...

Hi Andrew,

that was a lovely story. I was just remembering my grade school teachers the other day.

Perhaps you could send Mrs Hawking a copy of your book? Or the manuscript for comments?

Nilsa S. said...

We live in a world full of so much hate. It is always good to be reminded of the more tender and compassionate side of humankind.

Do you think Ms. Hawking has internet access and would be interested in reading your blog? Could you print some of your favorite posts and send them to her?

Andrew said...


That is a great idea and I will send a book to her if I ever get it published.

Nilsa S.,

I seriouly doubt she has internet access, nor would I want her reading some of the more interesting mental illness themed posts I write. It is a small town after all. The sentiment is nice, though. I certainly could mail her some of my favorite posts and will look into that. I just worry about it being pretentious.


Barb said...

Thank you Andrew for giving me a jump start to remember my Kindergarden teacher. That is who I visualized when reading this post, and Mrs. Hawking attending your Grandmother's viewing brought tears to my eyes...wonderful narrative worth sharing. Thank you again! Enjoy your day.

abbagirl74 said...

Yes, she WOULD be proud! You write with such passion. I love finding you every day with something new to read. I enjoy your blog the most. You have become a dear friend to me.

kathyj333 said...

I read through some of old posts. I'm glad I found you. I will read your stories often. You are an excellent writer. I'm glad you have "found" yourself.

Portia said...

Teachers like that are rare and priceless gems. I am sure she would be proud, both to see how your writing has developed, and to know that she had such an impact on your life.

Dirk said...

I enjoy your writing. I am told that I have bipolar and ADHD but am not big on the labels. Glad to see that one can get relief from these challenges.

Eric Valentine said...

"Try to associate the words with pictures in your mind," Mrs. Hawking would tell me as she patiently guided me through reading these simple little books.~

Andrew, the minute I read the above words, I thought of your writing ability and where did it originate.

I believe now that Mrs Hawkin was the answer to my question, for it certainly reflects in how you write.

Again well done on a wonderful and well written story. :)


I think it was great that you had a chance to reconnect with an inspiration to you. Perhaps you could send printed postings minus the url address of things that you feel proud to show her. I definitely don't think you'd be pretentious..she was your "muse" so to speak.
I really enjoyed what you wrote thank you very much for sharing your feelings with all of us.


btw: how are you holding up with Rosa leaving tomorrow?

Does she have access to a cell phone?


Martha said...

What a kind way to honor a teacher who had an obvious impact on you. I remember every teacher I had in grade school, and each one helped shape who I am today. I think it's wonderful that you have fond memories for the woman who helped you in your reading struggles. She must have done a stellar job, because your writing is amazing!

michael said...

Nice to meet u!

alphabet soup said...

Brilliant Andrew!! A great piece of writing and a wonderful tribute to Mrs Hawking.

Ms Soup

Colette Amelia said...

Andrew my chance encounter finding your blog seems to be destiny. I thank you for your courage and humanity. In my neighbourhood there is strife battling over an assisted living complex that would give people with mental illnesses a home to call their own...many of the neighbourhood are fearful this will in some way endanger them and their families and bring down the house values.

I think that finding you was helped along by some higher spirit, your words are a testament to what possibilities lie in everyone even the mentally ill.

Rosie said...

Hi Andrew, just found your blog, and can't stop reading it.
You are a wonderful writer, I can see everything you describe so clearly.
Hope Rosa has a good journey and comes back safe and sound. I have only just started writing my blog
Looking forward to your next post.
Rosie - the sun is shining in the UK today, what a change!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that thinks this stuff is crock of crap. Come on this guy is making this stuff up. It is nice fictional reading but readers digest at best.

celerman said...

I'm a teacher and I hope that someday, somewhere, someone will write something like this about me.


Andrew? Seriously, don't take what anon is saying..if he's/she's that forthright, than why not create a profile for himself and not hide behind the word, anon. Weak!

abbagirl74 said...

Just check anon out on sitemeter. I know you know how. People can be so shallow. Hiding behind their words. Anon is the one who is a fake.

Mom's Blog said...

Negative comments are hard to take even when you know they are not true and tons of others appreciate you!!! Just wanted to encourage you today and let you know I am one of the many people who DO believe in you and make your blog part of my daily!!

Shibbo said...

I like your writing. I wish you success with your novel.

sir jorge said...

awesome post, great story


How are you doing today? I'm a bit concerned with the moron over on "anon" along with Rosa departing..hope you're alright.
Maybe you're camping???

Melissa said...

Please disregard the anonymous posting becasue if they were truely worth their words than they would not have post the way they did. I truly wish you luck and DO NOt worry about the posting from earlier.