Friday, December 22, 2006

God Bless us Every One

Jean Z---, 87, passed away on Tuesday, December 19, 2006. Mrs. Z- was born on December 20, 1918 in Erie, Pa., she lived on the East Side of Erie, her home being on East Fifth Street. She attended Wayne Grade School and East High School. She attended Wayne Park Baptist Church. She was very active in activities in both school and church. Jean attended Edinboro State Teachers College and was certified to teach in 1942. She taught for grades at Espyville. Later in 1968 she returned to Edinboro to earn her BS in Education. When she later resided in Fairfax Va., she taught kindergarten in the Fairfax schools for sixteen years until 1984.

Where I'm going with this:

Mrs. Jean Z was in fact, my kindergarten teacher, in 1969, the first of her 15 years in that school system. And this is the story of how I found out that she had passed away. It is a glurgy sort of Christmas story that mixes the speed of modern information-sharing with the ancient practice of human connection. Tell it around your turkey dinners this weekend when there is a lull in conversation.

This is not the first time I have written about this unexpected relationship, so I'll try not repeat myself and get right to the climax, blog-style.

I have a history of crushing hard on schoolteachers, which kicked off that late summer with the first of them. I had never had an adult I could have my own relationship with -- not a family member, not someone from church, but my very own grown-up who "got" me. Got me for me.

At the end of the year, she gave me a copy of Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins as a sort of graduation gift. It was a used copy, had her daughter's name right inside it, but I didn't care. She had stricken Donna's name out and written mine, in that fine round "this is how we write your name" kindergarten teacher penmanship.

Years later, as a high school newspaper editor (like Blogging... with galleys) I wrote an editorial about the giving of that book in a "please thank your teachers" theme that reinforced my Bard of the Nerds status and was a big hit in the Faculty Lounge. But I did mean every word.

Which brings us up to 10 o'clock today. And this email... from my college alumnae office.

Dear [Caroline],

I am forwarding this e-mail to you from [DMcG] regarding the sad news of her mother passing and her desire to get in touch with you. I will let her know that I have done so. It is up to you, of course, to respond to her at this point. I hope you are doing well and have a wonderful holiday season. If I may help in any other way, please let me know.

Sincerely, [put-upon Assistant to the Director] Alumnae Relations

And that draws in that email, written 5:30 last night:

RE: Looking for [Caroline Bender]

Hello. Sorry to use this forum, but I am looking for a [Caroline Bender]. I think she is an alumnae. When she was in high school , she wrote a column about my mother's influence on her life. This week, my mother passed away, and we read that column at her memorial. I am hoping to tell [Caroline] of the blessing she has returned to our family.

Thank you for your time.Sincerely, Donna McG--

Merry Christmas from the cast and crew of Drawing In. Love ye, one another.


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