This morning, I drove to my neighborhood Starbucks to reunite with someone extremely close to me and one of the most influential people in my life. No, I don’t mean a lover or a family member, I mean my high school creative writing teacher, better known as the Crazy Writer from Hell. I parked next to her grey Mazda and saw her through the window, same as I remembered, short cropped grey hair, dark mascara, little blue sweater, and an expression of utter seriousness. It was picture perfect.
She and I sat at a table near the front of the restaurant, and first argued about who was buying the drinks.
“I have a Starbucks Card; I’m treating you,” she said.
“That’s not necessary, I can buy my own.”
“You’re in college, no you can’t.” She sent me to the front when the line died down. Even after a year and a half of not seeing her, she can still command me on what to do. So I bought myself a cinnamon bun and a gingerbread latte and then sat down to catch up with one of my favorite people in the world.
She asked me how school was going, and I told her it was very good, that I had declared a creative writing and education major, and I worked as a tour guide. At that she brought up the fact that she now worked as a tour guide at an art museum since she retired from teaching this past June. I asked how she liked it, and she said once she got away from my school, she was very happy. But she did say it was very sad to leave.
“I had to give away all of my posters and books. I loved all those books. I gave most of them to the school library, others to friends. I wanted to keep them all, but I have nowhere to put them.” She had about 300 books shelved in her classroom. When I had her class, we had to read one book every ten days and write about it.
As the conversation went on, she asked me what my school was like. I asked her if she’d ever heard of it.
“Of course I’ve heard of your school. I applied there in 1965 and they rejected me!”
After that, she asked me about my creative writing classes. I told her they were really good and I enjoyed them very much, that I was taught by some very accomplished writers. I told her about the writing style of the professor I’ll be having this coming semester, describing it as “autobiographical fiction.” She responded with:
“Hah, figures. Everyone writes like that. Don’t have enough balls to write some real fiction!” She proceeded to tell me that when I’m near graduation, I should do writing exercises for a business she started in tutoring students on writing college application essays. That’s still two years away, but when the time comes, I’ll definitely be working alongside her.
She went on to tell me about different ways I could escape my obnoxious roommate of this year, from sleeping outside to buying a key to my friends’ suite from a locksmith, to stealing my roommate’s key and locking her out. I thought that last one was a bit drastic, not to mention the public safety officers at my school would come and let her in anyway.
Seeing her brought about a million emotions to my head. One hour to catch up on each other’s life and then we went our separate ways, and it will probably be at least another year before I see her again. But, as little memory to her, she made me another bracelet. This one has brown kaleidoscope beads threaded with yellow thread around a corded frame. She claimed that there are a lot of benefits to being retired.
“You can just sit and watch TV and make jewelry and take classes at colleges formerly way out of your league and see people who remember you but you don’t remember them and you try to sound cool even though you’re scrambling through your memory trying to find their name. It’s a great time!”
Already, I miss her again. I think about everything she taught me and I can’t help but get teary. I hear about her past students reflecting on everything she made them do that they hated her for at the time, but now appreciate more than anything. That is what makes a true teacher.