“What’s this for?” I asked quietly looking at a large white box with a bright pink bow.
“I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work,” she said with a sly grin.
Mrs. K was a different sort of person. The first time I saw her, I was flabbergasted. She rushed into our freshman literature class on the first day of school, a floor length knitted black vest flapping behind her, with combat boots and a V-neck t-shirt, a Shakespeare bust in sunglasses on its front. She looked almost insane when she sprinted up to the front of the class, her fire red hair bobbing up and down as she talked. With a quirky smile she said,”Hello class. I am Mrs. K. Let’s have an adventure!”
Every day in her classes were just that too, journeys through the adventures of our minds. While other teachers were having students robotically reading text aloud, she was staging sword fights or elaborate death scenes. I had never met someone quite like Mrs. K before in my life, and I probably never will again. Her classes were like an escape from my role as the school wall flower. When she asked me at the end of freshman literature to be her aid, I pounced on the opportunity. For me it was like being asked to counsel the president, you just couldn’t say no. And really, who would want to?
I slowly opened the gift, not sure of what to make of its unexpectedness. Inside was a green pullover with small colorful flowers and black leggings that looked like they cost much more than a teacher should ever spend. They were not exactly my style, but they were precious to me almost immediately.
I had been Mrs. K’s student aid for almost two years, and it always felt like I was getting more out of the relationship then I was putting in. Before she was in my life, I thought reading was boring unless it involved a superhero in bright colored tights. She made literature fun. One day in class she turned the “To be or not to be” monologue in Hamlet into a kind of rap. We clapped our hands and stomped our feet and after every line we would add “da da”. “To die…to sleep… to sleep perhaps to dream, da da.” I was hooked on the Bard’s work from that day on.
Her room was off the library and the librarian shot me a scowl as I squealed just a bit too loudly at my wonderful new clothes. My parents never had money for new clothes, which made this present all the more extraordinary. I could not fathom how I could get so lucky to have a friend like Mrs. K. Her kindness was overwhelming at times.
I wore those clothes at least once a week until they were threadbare, and kept them for years after they could no longer be worn. I loved them too much to let them go easy. It was not until years later, though, that I realized that my attachment to the outfit had nothing to do with the clothes themselves. There was nothing special about them, aside from the fact that they came from her. This incredible lady became a savior to the outcast she had chosen for her assistant. She helped a poor girl with very few friends grow up to be a proud and compassionate woman. She also fostered a love for literature and writing that has lead me to my current career path. For that, I will be forever grateful.
©2016 Nancy Lehmann