Tomorrow is 10-10-10 and I will be 65. I think it is time to say "thank you" for the many and varied gifts I have received and none too soon, I say.
Through the years I have had many gifts from friends, relatives, family, students and educators. Today, although it is not about the classroom I write, I would like to thank them for the real "classroom" where I have learned, hopefully, to be a happier and more fulfilled person.
My mother was a professional educator in every way. I thank her for the model she gave me and my brother about teaching and connecting with students. From her we learned to appreciate the custodian and the superintendent, the students and the parents, the football coach and the band director. We learned the value of Friday night lights and a packed gym in January. She showed us that real teaching often happens after dismissal and real caring comes from attending solemnities required of community members.
My father taught me common sense. And patience. And forgiveness.
Of course, I have to thank all the teachers along the way. Mrs. Ortiz taught me not to lie. Mrs. Pittard read the Hardy Boys to us every day after lunch. Miss Parks taught me to write about what I know and Miss Smith taught me to be myself. Madame Brackett opened my dreams to French. Mr. Bertrand taught me confidence. Wherever they are now, I hope they know I have carried them with me all these years.
Three friends in high school helped me feel less isolated--Mary Jean Fitzpatrick, Julie Joffray and Cheryl Horecker. I dated twice in high school, neither remarkable but Bill Turkington is still the nicest person you can know. Everyone knows about my crush on Jon Swanson and no February 13 goes by that I don't think of him and hope he is well. He was "dreamy" and now he's bald. I would probably still be tongue-tied if I met him.
College friends like Patty Shelton were important and tragic. We parted ways over a boy. How stupid of us but how typical of us. She arranged for my first date with my first real sweetheart--Peter Torgrimson. Wherever he is today, I apologize for not understanding your subtleties. A mistake I rued for some time. But not today. It would have never worked.
Memphis and students who taught me how to be a minority. How to deal with racist slurs and intolerance and Dr. King who gave me the example to share with my students. To the class of 1971 at Southside High School, I thank you. Vicki Collins, wherever you are, I hope you got that job life guarding!
Three ex-husbands and California. My roommates on S. 10th--thanks for the party, continuous and gay! My brother had an especially nice time. They introduced me to Yosemite. For that I am and always will be grateful. It is my spiritual home and I was fortunate to work there with Charmaine Gerecke and Dianne Mueller. Two wonderful women who helped me put Viet Nam behind me and look to nature for my life.
From there to Missouri. I would not have survived the next few years without the friendship of Pat Stokely and, in turn, her family. She made me watch the evening news again and taught me about small town intolerance. She was a true friend. And a great cook! Thank you for many, many happy memories and to John Brown for being a beautiful dog!
Those three husbands all turned out to be flukes. I was much too young to consider that I wanted to stay in a relationship with one person for any length of time. But I do thank Bob Polack for my son and for the long Jungian fest that was our marriage. Despite it all, I think I explored a lot of my own self in those few years and was rewarded for my pain and suffering. My marriage now is much richer for the earlier mistakes. I am thankful for lessons learned in no other way which make me more capable and willing to share and grow with one person.
To the Metzgers, the Bains and the Weltmans--my other families. You each, in turn, have given me a "home" when I felt I had none. I regret that time and distance now keep us parted. But you and your children have touched me deeply in the richest of ways and I carry those treasures always.
Affton--Mary, Jane, Karen, Marilyn, Renee, Sandy and Gay--sisters and mentors. You have forgiven me in my frustration many times. You have offered me a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on, an angel to walk with me, advice and comfort, and the acknowledgment that I was a good teacher and person. From my heart I thank you for those years and the continued blessings of your presence.
As for today--Stella, Mercedes, Erika--new sisters, companions along the way. Betty Van Rees, wherever you are, you need to come back to us. Mandy Horton for teaching me new ways of helping kids and Linda Pelli for spiritual guidance.
The families I have known along my way--the Blasburgs, Derek especially, the Dierkers, the Jasons (who are hosting my birthday party tonight). Thank you for supporting me and believing in me as someone who could lead your children to higher ground.
As for all the students, going all the way back to 1967, you have been amazing gifts. Each of you came wrapped in significant ways and you challenged me to take you in other directions. I am proud to say we had a great journey together.
Last for my husband and children--who goes through life with so many blessings? All of us but do we ever stop to say thanks? I want the people of my life to know this because many of them I will never see again. For those I see daily, thanks is always there. My husband Nick is the best gift I have ever received. My St. Louis family knows what we two went through to pull our lives together. Wasn't easy. John, my oldest, is a constant reminder that I can have a positive influence and I do have a legacy in him. He is my joy. My step-children are frequent reminders that starting over at 50 was not such a bad idea after all. I love them dearly. We have had a lot of fun "growing up."
And so tomorrow I celebrate 65 years as a visitor here, gathering up the goodies I can and trying not to be tempted to do something foolish. I only hope I have many more people to thank before this ends. I would welcome the lessons and gifts!