As everyone says, one advantage to teaching is having unscheduled time away from school in the summer; another less publicly discussed but more personally satisfying benefit is the relationships forged during those days in the classroom. These two perks of my (past) profession came together for a most memorable road trip in 1997.
Betty was once my student–a bit of good fortune; it was, however, unfortunately in her senior year, the year her mother suffered a life-altering stroke. Somehow from that sad circumstance, a bond was formed that has held through Betty’s years at OSU and her move to Colorado and deepened in meeting for drinks, visiting the farm, sharing marriages, births, and, inevitably, deaths. It was her father’s death, in fact, that led to our travelling together.
It was time to transform the family home into the next generation’s–and, therefore, time for Betty to move out the lovely antiques that were her legacy. The rental truck was in the yard, the furniture was being packed, and we were saying good-bye, when–Wait a minute!–a suggestion was made (by which one of us I honestly do not recall) that since it was summer and I was not working . . . And almost overnight, we were settling into the cab of a big yellow vehicle and setting off for Evergreen. Once again, somehow, from this difficult process of separation came a wonderful few days of connection.
In spite of the ten years’ difference in our ages (I tend to run a bit late in some life events, Betty a bit ahead), we were both at that time recent orphans, mothers to single young sons, and, apparently, much in need of intimate conversation. The miles ran by and the talk ran on (even through Nebraska) and that truck became a time machine, an attic where we pried open a treasure chest of stories.
Along the way I shared a poem (I was her English lit teacher after all) that captured the feeling we had as we passed by people and places outside our windowed but isolated world. Lisel Mueller’s “Into Space” ends
Think of the sac of memory
as the last resort,
the bundle the refugees tie to a stick
when they cross the frozen river
Think of the contents, volatile
as dandelion fluff
when we finally scatter it
into the atmosphere we are leaving
Think of it falling on someone
who suspects nothing,
who is suddenly moved to recall
a forgotten childhood scene
and finds himself stunned by its gravity.
Always the farm girl at heart, Betty later wrote in a note to me, “I now have this mental picture of our truck having a seed spreader attached to the side. I tell a friend it was filled with dandelion seed. She says, ‘Oh,’ not realizing that one day a bit of fluff will float her way and she will smile and nod.”
Consider this another bit of that fluff.
Side note from me:
I don’t normally comment on someone’s guest post but being that it is Mother’s Day and Mine will have lasted 42 hours – being that I left Sydney at noon on Mother’s day there and arrived in San Francisco 4 hours prior to when I left Sydney also on Mother’s day. Which is why I need the guest post. But I do want to say a wonderful day for all you mothers out there who take the time to read the posts.
N, I don’t know whether to be more touched by the act of you saving a card for 18 years or by the fact that you were able to remember where you could lay hands on it for reference. I had forgotten about the card – the trip will never be forgotten.