I received an email from a former student today. He had just learned of the passing of his fellow classmate, my student and friend, Ceretha, who died this past fall.
The two were part of a delightful class of students, at nine, this was one of the largest and most diverse I have had since I’ve been teaching. The students ran the gamut from an 80 year-old Native American to an 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic. The one thing they had in common was their amazing ability to tell stories. Not only could they all write and write well, but also they were lively conversationalists and attending class with them was like being at a really wonderful cocktail party.
Once I get to know my students I usually end up enjoying my classes, each one is unique, but this group was among my favorites. You know those hypothetical games you play – if you were having a dinner party, who would be among the famous guests you’d invite? Well, this class was like the all-star line-up of students; it was pure fun to be in their mix.
Tonight in my present class, I had a student write about meeting a famous actor from the television series M.A.S.H. and it immediately brought to mind another story from this previous class in which one of my students wrote about sneaking into a London nightclub with another couple and meeting the Beatles. These are the type of tales you can’t make up. They were prolific among this group.
Today as I read my former student’s email, a man in his sixties, I was touched by his comment. He wrote: “I truly miss your class, it was one of the most enjoyable school experiences that I have ever had.” That’s a pretty nice endorsement!
Sometimes work feels like just that – work, and sometimes it feels like something more. Sometimes it is fun and sometimes, it is special. These stories stick. They are tales of people’s lives, their joy and pain, the path they took to become the people they are, but once they share them in class, especially when the group tells them with a sparkle in their eye and the charm of a champion storyteller, they become things to remember. They are family stories, and the letter I received today, expressing condolences over Ceretha, sharing details of a life, promising to keep in touch was a family letter. I am part of an ever-expanding family whose stories grow, flowing into each other year after year. I am sure when I am old and gray I will still remember these tales and the people who told them, their memories ever mixing with my own.