Last week's connection with my childhood friends left me wishing once again to connect with the 2nd grade teacher that two of us shared. She must be in her 70's by now and if I wait any longer...
On Monday morning I left a query as to the whereabouts of my teacher on my hometown's Facebook page and was pleased to find a reply not too much later. One person tagged another and I soon had both a married name and an address. On Tuesday morning I dropped a card in the mail. This afternoon I received a phone call.
There are only a handful of teachers I would actively seek out and this one is special among those. It's been 44 years since I left her classroom, but she has stayed with me all those years. She was wonderful and special to start with, but one simple act of kindness on her part carried me through some difficult days.
Trauma, in one way or another, reaches into the life of every child, and it arrives in many forms. My second grade trauma arrived in June of 1972 when the mother of a classmate died quite suddenly. She was also a family friend and neighbor. I knew what happened well before I arrived at school that morning... The trauma had already begun to set in.
I sat at my desk surrounded by the chatter of fellow students. I imagine myself silent, staring. Perhaps there were signs of trauma already in my expression. The door to the classroom opened and the Principal entered. He walked across the front of the room, put his hand up to the side of his mouth, and whispered in the teacher's ear. I watched my teacher's eyes close, her mouth drop open, and her face turn red. She threw her hands up over her face and ran from the room. And I knew why. The classroom fell silent, but I was the only child in a class of 28 who knew why our teacher had just run from the room in tears.
The principal stayed with us and read a story, or something I can't recall, while my mind spun and somewhere in another place in the building my teacher attempted to collect and compose herself before returning to the classroom. I don't know how long it was before she returned, but not long after her return she took me out into the hall and talked gently to me. All I can recall these years later was her saying something about us "not always understanding why things like this happen." She was tender and kind and spoke only words of encouragement. It was the only bit of counseling I would ever receive. The school year ended a week or two later. She never could have known how much I already knew about the event, or how much her actions would mean to me even all these years later.
On Monday I will meet my second grade teacher again. I am looking forward to a long hug, some good conversation, and perhaps a few tears as well.