Monday, February 11, 2008

Congratulations and In Memory

Well, boys and girls, it was a good news/bad news day.

The good news came when my phone buzzed and told me that I had a voicemail from my sister-in-law. My brother's voice actually came over the line, and he sounded so excited and said, "Call us back, call us back... we have some news..." I knew, of course, that they must be calling to let me know that they had found out the sex of the baby. I called and he told me after no small amount of stalling and teasing, that they are expecting a little girl!!

The bad news came a few hours later when my mom called to tell me that Ms. Dowlin, my 6th grade English teacher, died this morning of complications from kidney failure.

It's a sad moment for me. Ms. Dowlin was a quirky woman: she had her moody moments, she was never married as long as I knew her, she was absolutely addicted to coloring her hair, which naturally would have been pure white even 14 years ago (!!!) when I was in sixth grade, and she was a genius at the piano and regularly played the organ at her church. But when mom told me a couple of days ago that she wasn't expected to live much longer, I got to thinking, as one does in those moments, about what I would miss about her. Here's what I settled on: Ms. Dowlin was the first teacher who "got" me.

Now, this is not to say that I didn't have other wonderful teachers before then -- I was blessed with a whole series of loving, devoted teachers, some of whom kept up with me throughout high school. My kindergarten teacher even came to my high school graduation party! And even now, a couple of my elementary school teachers attend my dad's church, and are just the sweetest women, whose contribution to my education I cherish.

But Ms. Dowlin was different. She saw a slightly spacey, none-too-popular girl who read voraciously to the point that she neglected her other work, and she understood me. She took extra time to talk with my folks about how best to address my "issues;" she worked hard to help me succeed. She laughed that I was the only student she'd ever had to forbid bringing a book to class. She challenged me to write well, to be creative, to work hard at things I was passionate about and get through the rest. She encouraged me, even in her gruff way, to keep reading as widely and deeply as I could, asking me questions about the books I was interested in and suggesting others I might enjoy.

So today's post is in honor of little Katie Roberts, to be born sometime this summer, and in loving memory of Ms. Trudy Dowlin, my sixth grade English teacher.

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