greatexpect

1997

The summer between ninth and tenth grade I read Great Expectations on the deck next to the trees. Not equipped, or just too fresh to understand, it eluded me. But because it was assigned reading, the pleasing, achieving, insecure girl sat and read, and told myself I liked, and even understood it. I’ve always meant to go back and read it again.

2014

17 years later, a quote flew onto my desk. Literally. It fell out of a binder I pulled from a shelf. The quote read,

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” – Great Expectations, Chapter 9 

2005

The first link on a memorable day I walked into a class to meet my student teacher mentor.  Still the pleasing, achieving girl on the inside I stood up straight, smiled, and walked in. She briefly gazed up, half smiled, looked me up and down (or maybe that was only in my head) and appeared somewhat annoyed as she helped a student. She said, “one minute…have a seat.”  I pretended to look around the classroom, but really I was looking at her.  She was beautiful, probably in her late fifties, wore high-heeled boots and leggings on her thin legs. She wore lipstick and looked polished. It made me slightly intimidated, but I loved that she cared about how she looked while standing in front of rambunctious teens, but wondered why at the same time.

Now

I’ve thought about calling or stopping by this teacher’s house who became a friend and mentor. We promised we’d go to lunch here and there. Intentions. She made a scary thorny rite of passage like student teaching fun and personal.  A lady who laughed and rolled her eyes at the silly and ridiculous, who stood up for me when students cheated and parents disagreed, and who wanted to talk about neighborhood royalty and design instead of grade point averages when we sat at parent teacher conferences. And – she always asked about my love life. I liked her whimsy, romance, and moxy. She had independence, a hard work ethic, a bookcase organized by color, and five daughters. She also had or would have the beginning stages or Parkinson’s, but no one knew.

My last day of student teaching, she gave me the book A Gift from the Sea, which confirmed parts of our souls were kindred spirits. She told me her tradition of screaming as loud as she could while driving away on her last day of school and gardening all throughout the summer. I walked away feeling accomplished and perfectly placed in my teaching assignment for more important reasons than teaching philosophies.

A few years after our time together she retired to care for her husband and herself. I ran into her at a restaurant and she looked and sounded the same. She said she was writing her history down.  Now this is no ordinary history, and even when she told me I knew it would have the English teacher spice and her own vision.  She read me two pages and they were funny, detailed, about nothing and said everything.  Just the thing children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would actually want to read one day. Her voice will lift off the pages.  The sterile dates and details transformed. She is doing it in vignettes and then letting them come as they do – she’ll order them chronologically later she said.  She said she feels pushed to do it.  That she doesn’t know how much longer she’ll have her memory.

The importance of writing our voice and memories down rested heavy in my chest as I listed to her read her words over the phone. Write stories down.  Hers were as simple as a childhood memory playing a game, or how she felt about being one of many Judy’s in her class.  That one was entitled “No Nomenclature”

And I am the larger. Better. Enriched.  My life has many amazing people and chain of events. Sometimes I fear I’m letting my golden chains rust over.  The momentous day I met her was so ordinary. The uncomfortable joy. Now for my promise of lunch to continue, and polish the chain.

What moments and people in your life have unexpectedly marked and changed you? What is it about these experiences that we hold close?

Jennie L

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Figuring life out one book, beach, road trip, museum, and conversation at a time. Perpetually on the search for the best dark chocolate, finest pen, and best field. When she's not teaching high school, she loves to spend time with friends and family, on the back row of a yoga studio, or in the mountains.

5 Comments

  1. Sandra Reddish

    January 7, 2015

    This is lovely thanks for sharing……I think about bursting out of doors after my grueling oral boards in graduate school. Tradition at my college was that the other students would gather outside to wait for you but no one came. It really didnt matter
    because I let out a series of warrior like whoops and did my own personal victory
    dance across the grass. The yard I made my way through was used by the college
    football team to scrimmage but the victory dance rhat day was mine ans mine alone. At the r end of the grass I looked heavenward to thank the Lord for his help everystep of the way. I made it I made it I
    made it……I think was no accident where I was lead and blessed as I now have five children of my own three with special needs.

  2. Sandra Reddish

    January 7, 2015

    I relate to this because my field is speech language pathology so I am constantly using my education and training both to provide temporally for my children and for how i teach them everything at home. I felt like the end but in reality it was simply the grand beginning…..

  3. Strollerblader

    January 8, 2015

    The “non-piano player” that accompanied for YW one day out of the blue, the boy on my 3 week all-across-the-country bus trip who was an amazing missionary, a friend’s testimony of the Savior and the Priesthood, Mrs. Gunther’s belief in our singing abilities, a priesthood blessing from my best friend where my legs couldn’t stop trembling, so, so many late night D & M’s (deep and meaningful conversations) with close friends, my Alaska branch president. These people and experiences, are, like the quote says, were the first links in chains of gold that have bound me to the people and life I love.

  4. Jennie

    January 8, 2015

    Sandra- I love the idea of doing a warrior welp celebration after such an intense accomplishment! And on the scrimmage field no less. It’s interesting to look back at the chain and see what we are being prepared for! Way to go on both of those huge accomplishments.

    Strollerblader- first of all I hope you really do blade with your stroller. That is so awesome. And, your list. It is grand.

  5. Strollerblader

    January 12, 2015

    Unfortunately, my strollerblading days are over. My youngest is 8 now. But I did a lot (a lot!) of strollerblading for over 5 years when my kids were still in the stroller. Alas, I am not coordinated enough to rollerblade without a stroller to hang on to. (Heck, I’m not coordinated enough to rollerblade when I AM holding on to a stroller and I’ve got the screws and plate in my wrist to prove it!) But I don’t know what I would change my username to now…

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