I was just digging through some boxes of old papers, and came across this small, yellowed card. In perfectly penned letters, it said:
Thank you for the stationary. I love it because it’s so pretty, but most of all I love it because it came from my very special friend. I love you, Moonbeam.– Betty Reed
I got all sad and sappy and teary as my mind rewound back to first grade. Miss Reed was my teacher, and I adored her. I attended an upscale private school (on scholarship), and I was a weed among roses. Most of my classmates were very wealthy and immaculately dressed, and while many of them were driven to school in Cadillacs and Lincolns, I was hauled there from the shabby side of town on a little school bus (my younger brother once beat the hell out of a kid for ordering me to the back of the bus so that he could sit down. The kid felt justified, since his father had bought the bus).
Anyway, I’m not whining, I’m just remembering. My parents fought constantly, so I slept little at night. My dad was always trying to beat my mom to a pulp, and my mom was kind of busy trying to stay alive, so we kids were a bit neglected. We were afraid much of the time. I also didn’t eat a lot.
So there I was, this unkempt, exhausted, hungry little mess. Home was hell, and so was school. My classmates weren’t real nice much of the time, and neither were the teachers. There was no real retreat. But then, there was Miss Reed.
She was so kind to me. I remember her as being young-ish and pretty, with a warm voice and a gentle smile. She had frosted hair and frosted lipstick. She loved me despite my wrinkled clothes, my tendency to create an alternate reality for myself (also known as lying), and my inability to concentrate in class. She was thrilled by my reading skills (in first grade, I read at an eighth grade level), and fostered in me a lifelong love of the English language. Forty years later, I remember every hug and kind word she bestowed on me.
I have this fantasy that when we die, we’re shown a film of our lives, and all the people we impacted in a positive way. I think most of us would be surprised at the beauty of it all, and at the numbers of those whose lives we affected. I believe that my first grade teacher understood my world, and for a few hours a day, she decided to love me. It changed my life for the better. I’ll be in your film, Miss Reed. I’ll always love you.