Hear This

This morning I woke up full, the joyful weight of childhood memories and the bright faces of good people still lingering behind my eyes. Last night I attended a reunion with my elementary Montessori school friends in southeast Portland. I cannot say I was nervous as I parked the oversized rental Chevy Impala on 35th Place and flip-flopped my way up the concrete steps into my old teacher’s house. But I will say I never would have guessed how easy it was to be with people I hadn’t seen in years.

There were old friends there who I had not seen for a decade or more. A small handful of people I had seen only briefly in 1999, when we met sadly for the funeral of our former classmate Isaac, who committed suicide. And there were two who I had seen completely by chance within the past few years during other visits to Portland. But it was my teachers, the adults whose memories still glimmer with adoration in my mind’s eye after all these years, who I wanted to see the most.

It is difficult to describe the trust and love a young child is capable of feeling for a teacher. I have a distinct memory of the first day I met Elise, my upper elementary teacher. The director of our school introduced her as one of the new members of our Montessori community. I was sitting in circle next to none other than my absolute best friend of all time, Michelle Marshall, and we looked at each other with great anticipation. Our teacher is the most beautiful woman in the world! I remember thinking. We will be best friends, I just know it. And she will be the happiest teacher and she will know me.

My intuition turned out to be pretty true. Talking with her last night, after so many years, Elise related to me so truly and directly as the grown woman that I am that I found myself simultaneously astonished and pleased. It is not as if I could have anticipated it happening any other way – after all, I have been trying to get in contact with her for several years – but the fluidness with which we were able to relate was undeniably affirming.

And still later in the evening, the director of the school himself arrived at the party. We found a comfortable place on the steps away from the small talk and settled easily into discussion. It occurred to me later that I could open my heart to him wholly because he knew me as a child and taught me in an environment that honored whoever I might become.

The night before I begin the next adventure, this time earning an MFA in Writing, I can only hope for such auspiciousness with my instructors and my peers. My parents and I have a running joke that someday I will be a famous writer. We even have humorous voices that we use when we joke about this, as if we were the only dreamers in the world and there was nothing standing in my way. It is a gentle joke, not at all poking fun at the seriousness with which I pursue words, but really just affectionately mocking the fragility of finding success in the writing world to begin with.

When I walked into that Montessori classroom so many years ago it didn’t matter specifically what my dream was. Some days I wanted to be a veterinarian, some days I wanted to be an archaeologist, some days I wanted to be Mary Lou Retton (the Olympic gymnast). What mattered was that I knew how to dream and the adults in my life understood how important that was to my development. When I go to Pacific I do not want my dreams to be tunneled into one definition of success (ex. bestselling author), which is why I chose the program that I did. Just give me the freedom to keep dreaming, give me the strength of heart to be fearless, give me the friends and family to hold me up, and I will write for an eternity, my words forming mountain ranges of peace, oceans of thought, skies of deep blue faith in the world.

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