Monday, May 17, 2004

4th grade and Mrs. Rexford.

This one memory from my last day of fourth grade class came to me just now when I was thinking about "last days" and "last classes" of Taylor that will begin tomorrow (and oddly enough, ending tomorrow as well).

My friend Emiline and I were scared to move up to the fifth grade. We didn't want to have any of the teachers on the horizon--we wanted Mrs. Rexford again, and that was that. She played guitar and made up songs and lyrics and taught them to us and she made us love who we were--in song and in class. Like our own secret little club, she made us feel like we were on the "in's" in school. Like our class was special and unique. Like we belonged.

The last day of 4th grade came and as all the other students filed out at the ring of the 2:30 bell (or whatever it really was then) Emiline and I remained in our seats, refusing to budge. We locked our feet around the two front legs of the chair and held the top of our desks so tight our 9-year-old veins began to bulge up to the surface. Mrs. Rexford looked at us and we looked at her and nothing was said for a moment. Then, my best friend Emiline cried out, "Fail us!" and I quickly caught on and joined in. I remember us chanting and laughing, partly serious, partly jokingly I suppose and I remember seeing Mrs. Rexford's face. She began to cry, but not hard. It was light and soft and hesitant---like she wasn't sure she understood why tears were coming out or something. I remember looking up at her and feeling this weird, similar sadness in my own heart. Was life going to get any better than this? I felt like I had learned so much (in 4th grade--yes--I still recall so much from this class and can't believe that we were only in 4th grade when I think of the things she taught us). She made us love music and made us all sing even if we couldn't. Even when we couldn't hit the notes, she seemed to carry us through by making music with us. There weren't any more beautiful moments than our dissonance-sounding class belting out at 8:50 in the morning "My Country 'tis of thee..." or "A smile, a smile...", a song she taught us.

Slowly, the room sort of filled with emotion and tonight, this memory came to me a weird and confusing way. I guess it's because of getting ready to leave people here (at college) and friends that (some of them) I know I will never see or never talk to again. They will die before I die or I will die before they die and that is that. All of it seems so meaningless.

That's life, sure, but that doesn't make it easy. I wish I could talk to Mrs. Rexford again today and tell her how much her class really meant. So many people undermine the importance of teachers...much less elementary school teachers and to be honest, I think these people who do this must not have had a teacher like Mrs. Rexford. I had her and a handful of others like her, so maybe that's why I'm such a big advocate. Maybe that's why I'll be a teacher someday. Obviously, I didn't realize how much she had impacted me..and today, I'm sure I still can't grasp it. But part of me has tasted it and I feel like for now, that's good enough. I need more memories like these in my life to get me through times like this. Leaving and going, good-bye-ing when everything in me just doesn't want to say good-bye.

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