Mia: Shaken Not Stirred
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006A Wave of Nostalgia
June 2000 I walked out of the building year book and diploma in hand. I looked at the purple wrought iron fence we had painted the month before. It had seemed like a great idea to paint the fence the school colors of purple and white. Now it wasn’t so cute. Oh well next year’s senior class would take care of it. I walked towards my house my back to the school and then suddenly turned around just to get one last look at the place. I half-waved at it, happy to be free of it at last. I never envisioned myself actually going back to it for any reason. A few of my friends went back to visit from time to time but I never felt the urge to do so. I’m not that nostalgic.
October 2006 I am back. Parent-teacher conference day and mom dragged me with her. The school still smelled the same of hot dogs and sauerkraut. I wondered is that a perfume all schools have? Do they pump it in throught the heating system? Does it have the power to hypnotize? All of a sudden it was like I was traveling back in time. I remembered walking the halls to class waving to this one, smiling at that one, hustling from the first to the fourth floor trying to make it to global history before the late bell rang and I got locked out of class. WTF was that? Was that a wave of nostalgia smacking me on my ass? Cut it out those school girl days are long over.
We made our way to the auditorium to pick up my sibling’s report cards... “You look familiar, what grade are you in?” “I’m not a student here.” “But you were once weren’t you?” “Yes ma’m I graduated in 2000.” “Uh huh yes that why you look familiar!” “You were on the tennis team weren’t you?” “Yes m’am” “The girl that always played her matches in jeans and Timberland boots! You always refused to wear the skirt” “Yes that was me.” “My goodness you were good! That serve! Oh yes I do recall that serve! You wrote that beautiful poem on abuse for the paper too. It was in the year book. We still have it in a frame in the senior office you know.” “Wow I didn’t know that. Yeah that was me.”
Report cards in hand we made our way around the school, I didn’t expect to come across any of my old teachers. I’d heard that the majority of our teachers retired when the class of 2000 graduated, we wore them out. Just then life threw a little something my way. An old woman passed me in the hallway. There was something familiar about her. A minute later it hit me I knew that lady! “That was Miss Stricks!” I yelled out to my mother. My heart danced the rhumba in my chest. I had been crazy about that teacher. Oh man Miss Stricks the head of the English department! She was always encouraging me to pursue a writing career. She was the first person ever to tell me I had writing talent. It was because of her that I have continued to write. I wanted to thank her for all she did for me while I was a student. I walked back but she was gone. I stopped by the English department but she wasn’t in her office.
An hour or so later we were down to the last teacher on our list…”Mia can you guess who is Caity’s English teacher?” “No.” “It’s Miss Stricks!” We had just stepped into the room and I‘d caught a glimpse of Miss Stricks when my phone rang. I had to take the call it was important. I went outside into the hall. Inside mom and Miss Stricks spoke about Caitlin and her potential as a writer. Then she leaned in and asked my mom, “The girl that was with you looks very familiar. Was she ever a student here?” “Yes…that’s my daughter Mia…. “Mia? OH MY GOD!! I knew it was her!” she then ran out of her office and into the hallway to greet me. “Mia!” First thing she did was ask what I’d been up to since graduating. She beamed with pride and seemed on the verge of tears when I told her about my psychology degree, the Peace Corp and my future plans. “Oh my you’re a missionary! There was always something about you. I could tell back then." We walked arm in arm then she stopped suddenly and gave me a big hug. She then made me promise to come back to Stevenson, “It’s very important for these kids to see one of their own succeed in life Mia. Promise me you’ll come back here for the kids. Give them at least a year of your life."
Just then my sister’s music teacher came by and Miss Stricks introduced us. The music teacher echoed Miss Stricks words. A passing early childhood development teacher stopped to look at me.“You look familiar. I know you!” She had never been my teacher but she had been a friend’s. I often waited outside of her class for my friend. She remembered me, my sense of humor she often heard the jokes I cracked with my friend outside her door. I never thought of myself as a memorable student. I was shy so I never ever spoke in class. I kept my head down; handed my work in on time I just wanted to make it out of high school with my sanity intact and a diploma. I didn’t do anything to really call attention to myself inside the class room. My lone distinction when I was a student there was the fact that I had an eyebrow ring. No one else in the school had one body piercing wasn’t a fad with ghetto kids yet.
The teachers ganged up on me.Come back we need you here. You'll be an inspiration to these kids. Their dedication touched me. With retirement almost upon them they are still looking out for future students. I promised them I‘d return as a counselor once my tenure in the Peace Corp was up. I’d give back a couple of years to the school the nurtured my dreams. I thought about their words. I owe this school something; I owe my community, my people. Stevenson is one of the worst high schools in NYC. It has a 38.6% graduation rate and less than half of that go on to college. WTF? Nostalgia has come knock knocking on my door again?!
I know I have to return there I owe that much to the teachers that guided me towards the path that I am now on. Granted there were a few teachers there that were scared of us and were quick to dismiss us as cogs in the machine of negative stereotypes. In their eyes we were already failures, they really didn’t care if we made it out with a diploma or not. Thankfully they were out numbered by the ones like Miss Stricks, the ones that did care. Crud there goes that wave of nostalgia slapping me silly again.
Song of The Day…To Sir With Love by Lulu
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