letter to my second grade teacher

Mrs. Disney, I’m sorry.
It doesn’t feel like I’ve done anything great so far.

I can still see you looking a bit like a mature Kathryn Hepburn
concentrating on writing the note on my report card:
“Stephen, I’m expecting great things of you!”

Your last name was magic to me,
as were you.

I imagined your husband whom I never met
must have been like the Sunday night TV Walt Disney.

When I was in my teens, my family came back to Tennessee.
The little church where my Dad used to be the minister
had moved to a larger fancier building on the edge of town.
We were there to help celebrate their new digs.

I called you on the new church phone.
You acted like you remembered me.
One of the hundreds of messy kids
who passed through your classroom.

I wanted to believe this.
Just as a kid, I clapped
and helped Mary Martin/Peter Pan bring “Tink” back to life
on my family’s little black and white TV set screen.

Now, I don’t think it was important
whether you actually remembered me.
What was important is that at a moment’s notice
you were there again.
Like magic.

I have been thinking lately of the house where I grew up.
It stood right next to the old church.
There was a pear tree in the back yard
I used to climb it and sit and eat pears.
There was a crazy lady next door who would holler at me
for no apparent reason.

At night I could lay in bed and hear the train whistle blast.
The tracks were just across the street.
A few doors down was Crescent School
where I was in your second grade class.

In Google street view
the old house and church are both gone.
Crescent School is still there.
Peering at the screen, now,
I recognize the slope of the hill
behind the school
where the playground no longer stands.

Probably the closest I’ve come to touching greatness
is performing great music
and reading great books.

And who can deny loving
and living with another person for decades
is deep and wonderful like greatness must be?

Watching my children be born
and grow into life is deep like that.

Is that something of what you meant?

At 59 I find my musical skills improving.
This opens up more music for me
to actually touch and create.

My life deepens.

I spend time staring at my computer screen.
Watching for the magic.

Thanks, Mrs. Disney.


Guest Commentary: The civic purpose of public broadcasting – The Denver Post


Mark Chatterley’s Clay Sculptures Follow Golden Mean – NYTimes.com


How Slavery Really Ended in America – NYTimes.com

I know I put this link up yesterday. But I hadn’t read it yet. It’s adapted from Adam Goodheart’s book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening. As I mentioned on Facebook it shows how history unravels from small actions of real people. Recommended.


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