“It’s my time to go.”

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Writing
Tags: ,

“No it’s not,” I said and squeezed her hand.

“Yes, it is and I’m ready.”

“I’m not,” I said and brushed her hair away from her forehead.

Even at her very old age, her eyes were still crystal clear and a beautiful shade of blue. They really were piercing and I had not looked into them for too many years to count.

She had been my 5th and 6th grade teacher over 30 years ago and even then, I remembered her as old. I was 10 years old when I first met her. She was old-fashioned, kind and strict. The thought of talking back to her never entered your mind. You learned in her classes. You sat up straight. You said “Yes ma’am” and you turned your homework in on time.

When you received an “A+” you knew you had earned it. The same with a “C-.” Each and every piece was returned with her markings from her red pencil. You knew by her comments that it had been thoroughly read and critiqued.

She missed nothing.

She was my salvation when the math teacher I had decided she hated me and began her 2-year cycle of bullying me and another girl.

It was Mrs. Aronson who stepped in when she could. It was Mrs. Aronson who spoke-up and tried to stop it. It was Mrs Aronson who would tell me not to listen.

It was Mrs. Aronson who convinced me to write.

When she asked me to stay after class one afternoon, I gulped and nodded while I held my breath. I couldn’t think about what I had done wrong and tried to ignore the giggles of my classmates as they chanted “Susan’s in trouble! Susan’s in trouble!”

One look from her and they shut-up and scurried out the door.

I slowly walked up to her desk and waited until she looked up at me. She smiled and asked me to sit down. She was holding my paper in her hand. I racked my brain trying to remember what I had written and why I was in trouble.

I sat down and waited. Each second felt like a week while I watched her read it again. I could see some red marks on it. I was suddenly convinced that it was so bad, she was going to kick me out of her class. The fact that she couldn’t do that was beside the point. I had finally crossed some unknown line that kids aren’t supposed to cross.

I had written something that was bad and it was going to get me into trouble.

She turned and looked at me as she handed me my paper. I took it in my hand. The paper shook. I looked down and read her notes on it.

They were praising it. She commented on what she liked, along with her corrections on my grammar and sentence structure.

She had given me an “A+” and I thought it was a joke.

I looked up at her. She was smiling.

“Where did you learn to do this?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“Tell stories. Is this story true?”

“Yes!” I said. “This really is what happened on our vacation and my brother Jeff really did throw-up all over me in the back seat of the station wagon. My Dad was driving…”

“It’s OK, I believe you,” she said and chuckled. “I read your story and it’s wonderful.”

I nodded my head. I no longer felt as if I was going to vomit.

“You still need to work on your grammar, but that will come in time. But I want you to promise me something.”

“Anything,” I said. I loved her and always had.

“Promise me you’ll always write.”

“Who? Me?”

She laughed and put her hands on top of mine and pulled them towards her. “Yes, you,” she said and held them tight for a moment and then let go.

“Ummm….”

“No, you do NOT say ‘Ummmm.” That is not the proper way to speak. You either say “Yes” or “No.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Good. Now go home and I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said and began grading lessons. I got up and walked home, stunned.

Thirty years later, I saw her at a park. I recognized her immediately and felt a huge smile cross my face.  She could barely walk and someone was holding her hand as they walked around the lake. I stopped and just watched her for a moment and then walked up to her.

The woman she was with turned around and smiled. She tapped Mrs. Aronson on the shoulder and she stopped walking. I held out my hand and told her who I was. We looked at each other for a moment. Her hair was still in a bun, she was wearing the same perfume and she had her gloves on because that was the proper way for a woman to dress when she was outside.

She was very frail , but she was walking around the lake anyway.

“You probably don’t remember me, but I wanted to tell you how much you helped me.”

The woman with her hugged me. She was her great-great granddaughter.

I could see she was reading my lips. She smiled and nodded and took my hands in hers. “Yes, I remember you. Your eyes haven’t changed. Are you still writing?”

Her question floored me. “No, I never really…”

“You must,” she said. “You promised me you would, didn’t you?” she said and raised her eyebrow.

I was suddenly back in her class.

“Yes ma’am, I did.”

“You are not the type of person to break promises,” she said.

That’s all she needed to say.

“I will start right away,” I said and looked down and kicked some dirt.

“You start tonight, you hear me?” she said.

I kept looking at my shoes.

“Yes ma’am,” I said.

“Good,” she said and chuckled. She put her hand under my chin and lifted my face to hers.

“I don’t have much time left and I always wondered about you and how you turned out. I’m glad I got to see that you turned out just fine,” she said.

“Yes I did,” I said.

“I’ll be gone soon. I’m ready.”

I wasn’t. I had just found her again. I still heard her voice telling me I was good enough, that I could write, that I must write no matter what, that I didn’t deserve to be bullied.

It has always been her voice in me that kept me going, through unbearable heartache and loss, through all the rejection.

It’s her voice I hear when I make a typo or write a sentence wrong.

I cringe and fix it because she believed in me and loved me and cared about me enough to push me and never accepted a reason why it couldn’t be done.

She saw the best in all of us and never accepted anything less.

And that’s what we gave her. Our best because we knew she was right. No matter where we went or what happened to any of us, she forced us to know we were good and worthy.

It’s her voice I hear that I can do it and I will do it.

She’s the reason I teach.

She’s the reason I write.

She’s the reason that teaching is a noble profession and no one can take that away from me.

She is who I write for.

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Comments
  1. Truly emotional yet magnificently written :’)

  2. I’d look forward to reading them!
    Please do visit my blog and give feeback 🙂

  3. majikfaerie says:

    Thank you for sharing this Susan, thank you for writing and thanks for making the me cry

  4. Everyone needs a Mrs Aronson in their life together with that spark which lets them realise what is being offered to them. A lovely piece, Mrs Aronson would thoroughly approve!

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Ann,

      Oh thank you so much! I think she would approve except I’m sure there’s one or two things about my grammar that only she would spot. HA HA

  5. Awesome. Ironically, I had a math teacher bully too. Wonder what’s up with that!?