An Iconic Figure

So many of us students were touched by Mrs. R, our kindergarten teacher who went on to be the principal of the elementary school in recent years. I was her student in 1985, and my brother was her student in 1991.

She was there before we were. She was there after we were. But, she was more than just a fixture at the school -- she was iconic of our childhood. A point of reference, a marker on our life's map that reminded us of happier times, innocent years where our concerns were no bigger than the monkey bars we swung ourselves across.

For me, Mrs. R was emblematic of expectations -- hers of me were always very high, but not unattainable. I could tell, even as a child of four, that she held me with some sort of quizzical if not skeptical regard. Me, the genius kid, whom all teachers adored because I stayed in during recess to do extra work, and Mrs. R, well, not so much. I always felt like she was thinking that I'd fall on my face or that I couldn't have really been as gifted as my mother said, or as "bored or unchallenged" as I was in her class.

After I left that elementary school, she'd always ask me for updates when I'd see her at church, usually on Maundy Thursday. It was our yearly reunion, and I would always be very happy to see her, the woman who kept those memories of my childhood alive in her, the repository of decades' worth of kindergartners before and after me.

Most recently, I saw her when I participated in a panel discussion in October 2004, about the my culture and how the youth must preserve our heritage and identity in the diaspora. There I was, giving my speech about how people should stop being so cynical about this so-called new generation because, I noted, my friends and I had been together since kindergarten and had gone through colleges and universities, and now were all contributing to our cultural community ... all 20 years later, no assimilation really to speak of.

And, I looked up to see my kindergarten teacher Mrs. R in the audience, with another one of my teacher. And, with her approving, discerning look, I knew what I was asserting was the truth. She asked me what I'd accomplished ... and I very proudly told her that I'd finished my master's degree in journalism and was looking for opportunities in the field. Honestly, I could never quite tell whether I'd made her proud or not, maybe because she had a demeanor that didn't reveal much on the surface of what was going on emotionally. And, I laugh now thinking that she may have very well expected that I go out into the world at the age of six to cure cancer.

It's been 22 years since we left her classroom, yet my classmates and I have remained friends, and we've never forgotten what it was that she and our other teachers -- the rakes that tilled our soil and made us grow into strong saplings -- had tried to instill in us during those formative years.

And, since then, she taught our siblings, our cousins, the athletes we would grow up to coach ... all of them part of this great web of kindergarten memories.

May you rest in peace, Mrs. R. And, thank you for always challenging me to excel. 

Your loving student from the class of 1985.

PatientRapunzel PatientRapunzel
31-35, F
1 Response Feb 21, 2006

That was touching & very well-written.<br />
Thank you for that.