Life happened faster than she ever imagined. Where did it go? There is no, "once upon a time." She embarked on no grand adventures. There are no stories to tell. She's hasn't been around the world. She hasn't even been around the proverbial block. Life was ordinary. Every once in a while she gets a whiff of the flowers. But, certainly not because she stopped to smell them. And, of course, she doesn't even drink coffee.
But, still. There must be something worth telling. Something worth passing on. Something of value. Something from the past that she can make sound like an adventure. Or at least spin a tale to make her life enviable to others. Probably not. But, anyway....
The first of many tragedies -- viewed from the sidelines.
She was in Mrs. Murray's class in the second grade. Mrs. Murray was nice and easy to be around. At the end of the second grade school year, Mrs. Murray called her up to her desk and sweetly told her that she had enjoyed having her in her class so much, that she had decided to teach third grade next year and she would be the little girl's teacher again. This was a major relief for the little girl. Mostly because she knew she wouldn't have to explain herself, who she was, and why she had two names, at the beginning of the next school year.
The little girl and her teacher shared a birthday. It was common ground. Something to make the little girl feel important.
It was the day after their birthday. There was a knock on the door to the classroom. Mrs. Murray went out into the hall. A moment later, she called the little girl out into the hall. The class watched as she exited the room. Mrs. Murray closed the door. The little girl looked up and down the empty hall. Then Mrs. Murray got down on her knees, so that she was eye-level with the little girl.
She has to stop and make calculations about what year it happened. It's confusing to her. Even now -- 39 years later. Was she in the second grade, or the third? Was it 1962 or 1693? Well, it doesn't matter. It happened.
Mrs. Murray took the little girl's hands and gazed deeply into her eyes. "What is it?" the little girl wanted to know? Gaging her words, Mrs. Murray, softly stated, "President Kennedy has been shot. He's dead." Everything else that day was a blur. When she got home from school, her mommy was sitting in the living room, eyes glued to the television.
So many years later, when she was in her forties, the little girl had lunch on a Saturday with Mrs. Murray. After they caught up on their lives, the conversation turned to that fateful day. They both recalled the events with complete clarity. The girl asked her teacher why she was called out to the hall. The teacher explained. She said the school administration was concerned how the young students would take the news. She said that she would be able to gage the reaction of the rest of class by the reaction of the little girl. She said the little girl was the most sensitive student of all her students of all her teaching career.
I wish I could tell you that the girl and her teacher got together each year for their birthdays, but I can't. They went their separate ways. Although she thinks about her teacher often. Especially in November.
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© Marie Carnes 2002.
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