My second grade teacher, Mrs. Tucker, passed away recently. Everyone adored her, myself included. Like other losses suffered by the close-knit community in which I grew up, her passing sparked a series of nostalgic Facebook posts and animated phone calls of remembrance. I hadn’t really pinpointed before, but I realized talking through memories that Mrs. Tucker was the first adult who encouraged me to become a writer.
That was one of the years I missed a lot of school. The blizzard of ’78 took everyone out for a while, but the chicken pox followed up with a bad upper respiratory infection stretched my absence to nearly a month. One of my make-up assignments from Mrs. Tucker, an “essay” on how the blizzard affected us, only needed to be a paragraph or so – typical of what one might expect from 7 year olds. Bored as I was from being home and confined to my room much of the time, I wrote a series of little stories. I wish I had them now. I remember one was about my mom’s cousin delivering groceries on a snowmobile and having to transfer them through my brother’s (2nd floor) bedroom window, which actually happened. Another one involved hooking up the neighbor’s dogs to a sled and assisting in a search and rescue, which happened only in my imagination.
On the day I finally returned to school, Mrs. Tucker asked me to stay at her desk as the other kids left for lunch. I can’t recall exactly what she told me, but I do remember a funky warm sensation of bashful mixing with pride as she walked through my stories and pointed out things she felt were especially well done. I don’t believe she ever came right out and said ‘you should become writer’ or anything like that; rather, I think the time she took and the attention she gave encouraged me produced a much larger spark.
She had done something similar with reading, too – convincing me to take on my first chapter book earlier that school year (Charlotte’s Web) by telling me the ages on the shelves in the school library were simply ridiculous and I shouldn’t pay them any attention at all. That I do remember word-for-word because ‘simply ridiculous’ became my go-to phrase for quite some time.
Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, tend to be such lovely, wonderful people. It takes a special heart to be one and take on the responsibility of someone so very important in the lives of children. Mrs. Tucker, especially. Such a nice, nice lady.