As I mentioned earlier, my 40th High School Reunion is this weekend, and I’m very, very excited about it.
I don’t know why I’m so pumped, I usually don’t look forward to things like this, but this time, I am.
I suppose it’s because (A.) It’s been 40 years, and( B.) I look so darn good! You know, the gym, the diet, the tan!
But in preparing and thinking and planning, I’ve thought of a few people along the way.
There are some that won’t be there.
Some old friends are gone, taken too early, and many of our teachers are gone as well.
Several had a tremendous impact on me. One doesn’t realize until later in life that the teachers you had in school do make a difference.
I may do more of this, but today – It’s Mrs. Carson.
Like I said, it was later in life when I realized that this tiny Texan had a serious impact on my life, and the way I looked at life as well.
She seemed to be a hundred years old when were in school, but not so. She was only in her late 50s. Just like we are guys and gals, and she seemed to have been teaching since Shakespeare wrote the first sonnet, but again, not so.
Some things I remember:
She loved Shakespeare and she loved Richard Burton. She took her Senior English classes to see Anne of A Thousand Days as a field trip…because she loved the Tudors, English Lit, English History, and she looooooooooved Richard Burton.
She taught me that reading wasn’t just a past-time, but could be a vocation, a vacation, an escape, and a reality. She taught me to read for fun.
She told me who Alexander Pope, Tennyson, and Oscar Wilde were and introduced me to wit, humor, and good taste in literature.
She pushed me to write, told me I could, and let me know in no uncertain terms when I was off base.
About 15 or 20 years after I graduated from high school, I was in a meeting with several co-workers. It was “facilitated’ (80s word) by some seriously expensive speakers and trainers. One of them quoted Oscar Wilde. The quote, which I no longer remember, was not one of Oscar’s best, and he had some great ones. During the course of the meeting, the trainer said, “I don’t know who Oscar Wilde is, but I think this quote says it all.”
I was speechless!
After discussing the quote for a few minutes, I realized that out of 30 or 40 people in the room, I was the only one who knew squat about Oscar.
And that was because of Mildred Carson.
How all those college-educated-high-dollar sales people missed out is beyond me. But Oscar, Will Shakespeare, and Lytton Stratchey were not beyond Mrs. Carson. She made sure we knew who they were.
I found her address, sat down, and wrote her a letter thanking her for what she had taught me. It started a correspondence that lasted until her son called me to tell me she had died; at the age of 88. He told me she had given him, and his sister each a list of people to call when her time came. I was honored to be on it. Her daughter read a “passage” (her words) from one of my letters at Mrs. Carson’s memorial service. Ever the friend of mankind, she donated her body to science.
We wrote each other about once a month. I always expected my letters to come back with red marks all over them, and labored over each word, sentence, phrase, and punctuation mark.
But they never did.
We shared books, sent birthday gifts, recipes, and rememberances.
One of my most prized possessions is a Roseville Pine Cone pottery nut dish she sent me when she knew she was dying. It has a special place in the curio, and a special place in my heart.
So, thanks Mrs. Carson, for what you taught me, and for the fact that you cared if we learned, and cared what we learned. You were a teacher who had a great impact!