September 21, 2011

A Visit with Miss McClellan

Haven’t we all had a favorite teacher that taught more than just academics? My 6th grade teacher (1967-68) was a single lady that I presumed poured so much effort into us because she didn’t have someone at home to take care of. Always the encourager, she motivated us to sing with gusto the folk songs in our well-worn songbooks. She was able to convince even some of the boys to join in after-school knitting lessons. And she was ready with a quip for every occasion.

One of her sayings I didn’t particularly like was “life isn’t always fair.” It provoked me at that age when I knew that the good guys always won in the end. Didn’t they? The potential answer made me entirely uncomfortable with the thought of growing up in a world where justice didn’t rule. And when I protested, it was “life isn’t a bowl full of cherries.” I remember thinking that one sure didn’t make sense. Cherries are small and red. Life isn’t small and red, and it is definitely not in a bowl!

Of course, I learned the wisdom of her words with time, and as an adult I searched for her. I thought I’d like to thank her and show her what I had become, but I couldn’t find her. I approached an address of a McClellan that I found in the phone book one summer, but I “chickened out” as I drew close. After all, what would I say? So I went home to raise my children.

Then in my 50s I sadly discovered her obituary on the internet and discovered she had lived just 15 miles away from me. That was when I learned she was survived by some sisters, one who was still in the area. Well, I reasoned, I can still honor my teacher somehow.

I visited the younger Miss McClellan today. I sat on her chair and admired her family pictures and her paintings and heard stories of her sister and reminisced with her about her travels and her own teaching career, just as though she were my own great aunt or my mother’s friend. And I am soooo glad I didn’t wait another day to contact her!