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Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Around this time last year, my friend and editing partner Grace Hollen asked me to join a group called the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). She assured me that editors who are serious about getting business join it. I joined. And I’ve been so happy about my membership. I’ve applied for some jobs through the organization, but nothing has materialized yet. I still have one application out, and I would love to get that job; however, even with the references that I have, I doubt that I’ll be hired. That’s okay, though, because I’m now going back to work for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (my old company and the one that I sent the application to) in inside sales, conducting WebEx presentations. As usual, I digress.
One of the perks of being a member of EFA is belonging to the EFA Digest, a group list that comes out almost every day. I have learned so much from the people in this group, everything from how much to charge to errors in the Chicago Manual of Style to whether we should call ourselves copyeditors or copy editors to sharing of jokes about editors. All sorts of helpful as well as funny stuff there! I look forward to reading the list every day, and I have even asked some questions and received great responses, even though I had a terrible typo in my first post (spelled proofreader, proofreaded). No one even mentioned my error, though one person did correct my spelling in the headline before answering me. I liked that!
I have written to several of my co-members in emails . . . personal topics that I didn’t want to share with the whole group and have received kind answers. One of the members, Al Sabado, is a member that I really wanted to get to know because it was very much obvious to me that she is a dynamic Christian. In the public sector, it’s not the usual to find a person who has in her signature John 3:16, written out in words for everyone to see. This Scripture is attached to every post that she makes, and I’m sure it’s on everything that she writes, including correspondence with customers. She’s surely not ashamed of Jesus. Because of her signature, I wanted to get to know her outside the EFA digest. Because of her name, I was afraid to pursue a friendship since I thought she was a man, and I certainly didn’t want a man to interpret my correspondence as “hitting” on him. I bit the bullet, though, and sent an e-mail. I can’t remember if I asked if she had a Facebook page or if I suggested that she get one, but soon I saw a picture of this “man,” Al, on Facebook and discovered that she was a beautiful young Filipino woman. Whew! What a relief.
We immediately became friends and did some sharing of editing business as well as Christian beliefs. I loved her from the beginning, and when I heard about the devasting storm in the Philippines, I, along with members on the digest, was was concerned about her safety. Many days after the storm, one of the members posted that she had heard from Al and that she was safe, having suffered mainly water damage in her house. She had a mess to clean up, but she didn’t lose family members. I think she might have lost a dear friend, though. I gleaned this from something that she said on Facebook.
So back to my anger. I wish I could find her first post after the storm, the one that rankled a few members and caused their vituperative comments about Al. If I remember correctly, she was thanking God for sparing so many even though others were lost in the rain and wind. Those few attacked her for her beliefs and then latched on to their feelings about her signature. My heart broke for her. I even prayed that she wouldn’t see the comments, that she wouldn’t bother to catch up on everything. But in my heart of hearts, I knew she’d read them and that she’d be terribly hurt by them. In my heart of hearts, I also know that she relied on Jesus to get her through. In all of her posts previous to the storm, she has never proselytized; her witness is only in her signature. She has given excellent editing advice, but her advice was never mentioned in the back and forth criticism of her . . . only her relationship to Jesus. I must hasten to mention that there were several members who stood firmly by Al’s side through all of the comments. I couldn’t even tell if any of them shared her beliefs. I do know that Jews and atheists came to her rescue, and I am forever thankful for these friends, these kind people who recognize that all of us are entitled to our beliefs.
Al’s post either today or yesterday is what put me over the top in my anger. This is what she wrote:
Thank you for all your messages. I regret that this is going to be my last post here. I wish you all the best.
Your personal editor online...
Marikina City, Philippines
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." -
John 3:16 (KJV)
I cried for at least an hour after reading this. Just could not stop. What an injustice to a sweet, Christian editor! I’d love to post a message on the list pointing members to my blog post to see my feelings about the whole thing; however, I’ve decided that there’s no need to stir the pot any more. Probably wouldn’t do Al any good. I’ll write to her and ask her to read my post. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t.
Al, if you DO read this, just know that your friend Sandy is so sad not to be able to read your posts on the digest but that she is so proud of the mature, Christian way that you handled the whole matter. No venom, just a kind good-bye. I’ll still be asking for your advice through Facebook, and I’ll be counting on your posting more good places for me to link to for editing advice. Your leaving the EFA digest is our loss.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Frank and I belong to an exclusive group. It’s one into which we have no desire to induct new members, and it’s one into which no one wants to be inducted. We have no formal meetings encouraging all members to be present. Occasionally, we seek each other out, especially looking for those who have recently found themselves members. No one pays dues once he or she is a part of the group—all of us have paid lifetime dues before becoming members. Those dues are an absolute necessity before joining the group, and they are dues that we pay kicking and screaming. You see, we are all members of the Parents Whose Children Have Died Society.
On May 29, 2009, Betty and Ward (Wop) Powell became members of our group. None of us are happy that they have joined, but we all welcome them in the sense that we love them and know that they need the steadfast support of those of us who truly understand how they feel right now. Their wounds are raw and green, and they need our assurance that they will survive. And survive, they will. If they will accept the love of their friends and if they will allow God to wrap His strong arms around them during this tender hour, they will get through this unhappiest of times. Please note that I didn’t say that they’d ever get over the death of their son. They’ll get through the active grief period and on to—not life as it was with Gary—but a different life . . . one without Gary but one with each other and their sweet daughter Debbie, who loved her brother with a love that only sisters and brothers share.
By the time that I met Gary Powell, he had been a quadriplegic for several years. His paralysis was the result of a tragic, fluky accident when he was fifteen-year-old sophomore, just two weeks away from his sixteenth birthday. Gary was a runner on the Pine Forest High School track team; and one Saturday morning in 1983, while he was waiting for a race to begin, a policeman suddenly lost control of his motorcycle, the vehicle hitting Gary, bruising his spinal cord and causing the injury that would change his life forever.
My introduction to Gary was during the heyday of Velvet Melon, our son Jay’s band. I knew that he and Jay had been friends in high school; however, I was unaware of the strong bond that had developed between these two young men. One Sunday afternoon, Jay informed me that Gary and his mother, Betty, would be at the gig that night at Coconut Bay, a local bar. I immediately began to worry about how Gary would get through the crowd, where he would sit, how the “kids” would treat him—all those mama worry things. I should have known that there was no need for concern.
Jay knew exactly when Betty was scheduled to arrive with Gary, about half way through the first set. Just before Gary’s arrival, Jay stopped the music to make an announcement. “OK, everybody, here’s what’s gonna happen. In just a few minutes, Betty Powell will be coming through the door with Gary, so you need to spread out to make a path for him. Hey . . . those of you right next to Jimmy and the sound board, make a place for him. Thanks!” And so it was every time Betty and Gary showed up for a gig. Jay took care of his friend. The bond was still there, stronger than ever. As soon as the set was over, Jay would head for Gary to visit for a few minutes before he began to “work the crowd,” as he called making the rounds from friend to friend.
Through the years, Frank and I came to love Gary and Betty and were always so happy to see them coming into Coconut Bay. We also felt great respect for this mother and son, neither of whom ever complained about their lot in life. Instead, both of them always had smiles on their faces and upbeat attitudes—such beautiful examples to all of us.
When Jay died in July 1992, Gary and Betty came to our house. I wish I could remember exactly when they came, but I can’t. From almost seventeen years’ distance, it’s difficult to remember exact times of visits. In my heart, I think it was a few days after the funeral. We were so happy to see them. We needed them. In the South, almost everyone who visits the bereaved comes bearing food. In my memory, I see them coming in with a ham, something that could help feed the hoards of young people who made themselves at home in our home for days. They stayed for a long time, reminiscing about Jay and making us know just how much both of them loved our boy. They made our hearts happy at a time when happiness was elusive.
Just before Christmas that year, Angela Hinkley and our daughter, Wendy, presented Frank and me with what has come to be called The Jay Book, a collection of stories about Jay, written by friends. Angela had gotten in touch with many of Jay’s friends and relatives and had asked them write remembrances of Jay. Gary was one of those friends. His recollections about Jay show the personalities of two good friends:
"Back at the time of my accident, all my friends kind of dumped me. My sister’s friends kind of picked me up. Jay was one of those friends. Jay always, no matter where he was or how busy he was, would take the time to sit down and talk with me. Not everybody did that. Even if Jay was runnind late and supposed to be someplace else, he would make time for me. It was enough to know that he cared that much for me.
"One time in high school, Jay was late for band practice. I was in the commons and Jay sat down to talk. We were discussing running before my accident. I was telling Jay that although I could not run any longer, I would often push my wheelchair on the driving range for exercise. I would go fast, then pop the brake to spin around. I told Jay I couldn’t really go very fast, though. Jay got up and told me to get ready because I was going to come as close to flying as I would ever get! Jay took off, driving my chair at top speed through the hallways. We flew so fast that I thought we were going to crash! I was so scared I almost lost my water. My heart was in my britches!
"I really appreciated that no matter how large the crowd around him was, Jay always made time for me. He wanted to get personal with people."
During his short twenty-four-year life, Jay had hundreds of friends. Some of them were just acquaintances to us, and I hate to admit that I have trouble remembering them. Gary wasn’t among those whom I can’t remember. I’ll never forget him and his family—Betty, who was always by his side, who devoted her life to him after his accident; Debbie, who was such a caring, loyal sister and who told me just this evening that she’d happily do all that caring all over again and do it even better; Ward, whom I never met but who I know was right there for Gary along with Betty and Debbie. The Powells are such a special family to Frank, Wendy, and me.
God has promised that when our lives on earth have ended and we Christians join Him in the heavenly home that he has prepared for us that these old bodies that we’ve had here will be perfect . . . free from illness, pain, infirmities. We’ll have new bodies, whole bodies. On May 29, Gary Powell went to be with Jesus. He welcomed Gary with open arms and gave him that new body with strong arms and legs and absolutely no pain. I picture our friend running and leaping and having the time of his life. I also picture my boy greeting him with a huge smile, throwing his arms around him in a big Jay hug, the kind he used to give to me, saying, “Gary! What took you so long? We’ve been waiting for you. You’re gonna love it here!”
Saturday, May 30, 2009
When Jackson comes to Grammy’s house, it’s a good day. If you ask him what makes Grammy the happiest, he’ll tell you in a heartbeat that she’s the happiest when he’s at her house. And he’s absolutely right. Jackson Matthew Yocham brings sunshine to his grandparents, and here’s how . . .
The day starts when he gets out of bed and announces, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today!” You know what that little declaration does to our hearts.
As this bundle of energy hits the front door, he heads for both of us with hugs. Now, don’t get me wrong—his hugs aren’t with his arms; they’re more a leaning in to us with his head. But we know that they’re hugs. Most days, he comes in dragging his Handy Manny suitcase (really a backpack with wheels) filled with extra clothes and underwear, snacks, and a toy or two. The only part of the contents that he needs is the clothes and underwear because he wants only two snacks at Grammy and Pop’s house—chocolate milk and round crackers—and both of them are right here. He seldom needs toys of any kind because he’s far too busy helping us. And no toys are required for that.
He immediately asks for chocolate milk after his daddy leaves, and you know he gets it. Since he knows where it is, he goes directly for the pantry. The organic chocolate milk box has rows of three little individual boxes in it. If Jackson is trying to get his milk from a full row and is having trouble, I remind him of our motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Yes, I know it’s an old mantra, but it’s new to him, and he likes for us to use it, and he likes to use it on his parents at home. Round crackers—Ritz Crackers— come later.
After being rejuvenated with chocolate milk, he goes to Pop’s garage to help him with some project, like wiring, putting in circuit breakers, putting up lights, examining and learning about tools, hanging garage doors, and installing the garage door openers. Or maybe he’ll help
outside with moving sand or laying flagstone or watering the trees in the “orch-red,” as he calls the orchard. He can tell you the names of almost every fruit tree there. He and Pop may take a little break to rock in the wicker chairs on the portal. Since I’m not invited to those sessions, I don’t really know what those boys talk about, but I’m sure it’s important. It may be that they talk about the mama bird and her eggs, the growth of the grape vines, the inadvisability of messing up Pop’s sand on the terrace just down from the portal, or the name of the bird making “that” sound. They talk about all sorts of things.
At least twice during the morning, he’ll run inside wanting to know if it’s time for lunch yet and if he can have tomato soup and croutons when the time comes. That’s what he has every day that he’s here. Never tires of it, and the little sweetheart eats almost a whole can of soup and croutons made from two slices of bread all by himself.
I think you need to know that five people in Jackson’s life have nicknames for him and that no one else can call him by these names. To his dad, he’s Little Man; to his mom, Sweetie Boy; to Pop, Buddy; to me, Sweetheart and Darlin’; and to Chris, one of our good friends, he’s Short Round. Quite a range of names, huh? I’m not sure why I thought you needed to know all of this, but now you’re educated and know not to use those names yourself.
When lunchtime does roll around, right at noon, the three of us gather, and Jackson says the blessing: “God is great; God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand we must be fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Ah . . men!” When he first began to be in charge of this part of the meal, he kept his eyes wide open to be sure that everyone else had his/her eyes closed. Lots of pauses to remind folks. Now he squinches his eyes closed, but if you dare to look, you’ll know that he’s still peeping out through little slits so that he knows what we’re all doing. His intonation reminds me of that of a television evangelist.
After lunch, it’s naptime. You might think that he can twist Grammy around his little finger and avoid snooze time. Not so. We have a little ritual that we follow, and I think the pleasure of completing it makes taking a nap worthwhile. First, we get the bed in the guest room ready: one pillow with a sham on each side of the bed, his special pillow between them, the colorful blanket (an afghan crocheted by my mother) ready to cover him, the ceiling fan turned on (even in the winter). Now we’re ready for the next step. “I’ll turn the dryer on, Grammy!” We put his towel in the dryer for about two minutes so that he can snuggle up to it. Now he’s all set, and we each say, “’Night, ‘night, I love you!” about three times, and he’s off to dreamland. He used to sleep about three hours, but nowadays, an hour and a half is a good length.
When he wakes up, he comes very quietly to wherever I am . . . sometimes in my office, sometimes here on the sofa answering email, writing on Facebook, or writing for my blog. If I’m in my office, he plays office while I work. That means that he punches holes in paper with my hole punch or sits there pinching the staple puller together, listening not too carefully to my admonishing him not to poke his fingers. If I’m working on my laptop in the family room, sometimes he begs to write on his blog. I pull up a new page in Word, and he types away. Here’s an example of his talent:
Beautiful, isn’t it? I love having him work with me, no matter what we’re doing.
Just a few minutes after he gets up from his nap, he asks me if he can have a “little treat.” Actually, he asks several times during the morning, but the rule is that he can have it after his nap. He seldom forgets. Now, you may be thinking that a “little treat” is a handful of cookies or a bowl of ice cream. No . . . his “little treat” is one Junior Mint, not one box of Junior Mints . . . just one little piece of nickel-sized candy. He’s perfectly content with only one. In fact, he knows where the boxes are stored and will go there and get his one “little treat.” Wendy and Todd didn’t give him any sweets until just a year or so ago, and he’s now four. The only kind that they let him have then were cookies that I made because they knew what was in them. He’s not really attracted to sweets much . . . just his “little treat” and sweet biscuits on Sunday morning at his house . . . ones that I make. He calls them cake.
Another thing that Jackson almost always does when he comes to Grammy’s house is work with me in the kitchen. Oh, my goodness, can he ever bake biscuits! On second thought, I guess I should say, oh, my goodness, can he ever make a mess! He pulls his little stool up to the counter where I’m cooking and announces that he’s going to help me cook. That means that I need to get two bowls, the sifter, a measuring cup, a couple of measuring spoons, and some
flour ready. I’m not exaggerating when I say that he can stand there for 30 minutes or more just sifting flour from one bowl to the other. And is my kitchen covered in flour? Oh, yes, and so is he! After we finish cooking, he just moves his stool a few inches back and helps me wash dishes. That process is very similar to biscuit making: he has one sink, and I have the other; he has a measuring cup, a spoon, and lots of suds to pour between them. And is there soapy water everywhere? Oh, yes. But does he have a grand time at Grammy’s house. Double or triple that yes!
When Jackson’s daddy comes to get him, Grammy and Pop are a bit weary but ever so happy for the good day. Jackson, named for both Frank and Jay, is so precious to us. I don’t even let myself think about what our lives would be like if we hadn’t moved to Cerrillos in 2003. So many things would have been different. Perhaps the most important one would be our not being close enough for Jackson’s proclamation, “It feels like I need to go to Grammy and Pop’s house today” to be fulfilled almost every time he makes it. You see, it is, indeed, a good day when Jackson comes to our house.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Just as I make “new best friends” everywhere I go, I find “new favorite blogs” almost every time someone mentions that he or she has started one. Just this week, I’ve added Pardon Power, Our World in 3-D, and The A-train Journal. Pardon Power is authored by P.S. Ruckman, a former student, and concerns presidential pardons; Our World in 3-D is Rodney Taylor’s blog, and like mine, concerns a little bit of everything; The A-train Journal is being written by Andrew Reed Waltrip and is a photo journal.
This morning when I checked my email, I found a message from Beth Waltrip, one of our best friends in Pensacola and the wife of our “son,” Andy, one of Jay’s best friends and one of “my boys.” The purpose of Beth’s email today was to let friends know that Andrew Reed, her and Andy’s little 71/2 year old boy, is posting to his very own blog, The A-train Journal.
As soon as I read Beth’s note, I went to Andrew Reed’s blog. What a work of art! Since his momma’s a photographer, he’s already traveling with camera in hand and taking really good pictures. GrammySandy, the name he gave me years ago when he was just a little boy, immediately posted a comment telling him how proud she is of him . . . especially of his composition skills and of his great vocabulary. All of us bloggers love comments, so I know he’ll like hearing from me.
I also told him that I’m happy to see him calling himself a redneck. The dictionary definition of a redneck isn’t very complimentary; however, people from parts other than the South have used the term about us for so long and so unkindly that we Southerners are tired of it and have decided among ourselves that it’s not such a bad term. We like rednecks. They’re good country people. And little AR is a country boy. He and his family live out from Pensacola in the Perdido area. I love to go to their home because it’s so peaceful, a bit like our place out here in The Land of Enchantment, in solitude and quietness, that is. In appearance, quite different . . . think “green, lush” when you try to get an idea of their place.
I hope you’ll check my blogroll sometime and give yourself the pleasure of reading Andrew Reed’s blog and looking at his photos. Tell him that you read about him on GrammySandy’s blog. He’ll get a real kick out of that!
(Just a little aside . . . AR isn’t an only child. He has a very creative, energetic, equally-as-handsome-as-he younger brother, Wil Tyler. Someday I’ll write about him!)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Almost thirty of my friends on Facebook are former students. The majority of them I have not seen since they graduated. They are all dear to me in one way or another, but for today’s post, I have chosen to write about only three of them. They just happen to be the three with whom I’ve been in touch the most recently. If I know myself, I’ll wind up writing about everyone before my blogging days are over. You’ve heard the expression “Let the buyer beware”; there’s another one—“Let the reader beware”—and I’m invoking the latter today. Why? Because this is one terribly long post. Consider yourself warned!
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True confession—I have a MySpace place, but I much prefer Facebook. MySpace is too hard for me. I don’t know why. Maybe the reason is that I haven’t really tried to learn how to use it and haven’t given it a chance. One thing I didn’t like had nothing to do with my learning ability: I didn’t like the query as to my mood for the day. Silly, huh?
Ordinarily, I don’t think of myself as having moods, so I don’t want to choose a mood for the day. I’m certainly not a moody person, but I don’t guess being in a mood necessarily means being moody. Today, for sure . . . I’m in a mood. And what mood would that be, Mrs. Young? Nostalgic, that’s what. And why do you address yourself as “Mrs. Young,” to be pronounced “MizYoung” or better yet, something like “Mizzhung.” Because my nostalgia is caused by former students, and these young people are the ones who, for the most part, pronounced my name that way. For thirty-two years, I was MizYoung to a host of teenagers, mostly at Woodham High School in Pensacola, Florida.
Thanks to Facebook, I have been reunited with many of these youngsters, some of whom are between the ages of 40 and 50. To me, they’re still young. Three of them are rooted so firmly in my mind and heart today that I’m impelled to write about them. If they read this, they don’t need to worry about my telling any deep, dark secrets. I doubt if I knew any back when I saw each of them every school day during their senior year, and even if I knew secrets back in 1986, 1979, and 1977, I wouldn’t remember them now. You know the elderly and their memories! And so to my Thursday nostalgia . . .
I’ll begin with the young man most recently my student, Todd Cathey, who was in my Advanced Placement English class in 1985-86. Todd found me on Facebook earlier this year, and we’ve been playing catch-up ever since, especially during the past couple of days. If any of you who are reading this are now teachers or were teachers in the past, you’ll understand when I say that teachers grab firmly to any compliments that they receive. When I engage in this action, savoring every positive word aimed in my direction, I feel really guilty for not going back to my teachers to let them know what an impact they had on my life. This is what Todd wrote on the “25 Things” questionnaire on Facebook, and I immediately got the big head:
High school was so intellectually unchallenging for me that I missed half of my senior year from sheer ennui. AP English was the saving grace - and I'm not saying that just because Sandy Young is one of my friends on Facebook!
How I do love a big head!
Two other reasons for Todd’s being on my mind today are his being an author and his connection to my boy. He pointed me to a Web site called gather.com, where I was able to see his Web-published pieces. I thoroughly enjoyed a story/memoir titled “It Was Always Tommy.” I’d love to teach that story! And then Todd mentioned Jay and how he found out about my boy’s death from Todd Laws, the drummer in Velvet Melon at that time, in a chance meeting at the airport . . . how shocked he was—as were we all. This is what he told me about Jay: “He'll forever be that vibrant young man, singing and playing his heart out and reaching for the stars.” Thank you, Todd Cathey. You have made my heart sing today. I hadn’t forgotten you through the years, but I hadn’t thought of you for a while at the time that you found me on Facebook; however, I can assure you that you won’t be far away from my thoughts now.
The nostalgia for the next student has been building for weeks. One Saturday evening just before I went to bed, I had two Facebook friend requests from former students from the Class of 1979. In case you need math help . . . that’s 30 years ago! Robert Sims and Candy Bellamy Carter found me, and I was ecstatic. I could hardly sleep that night. I’ve been in touch with both of them a lot during these weeks: with Robert mainly because of their Class Reunion this summer; with Candy because of so many things. Today, I want to talk about Candy. Robert will come in another post, I’m sure.
Candy Bellamy . . . what a beautiful, smart, friendly young lady in my Honors English class from August 1978 to May 1979. I remember her as an excellent English student and one of the few students through the years (few in comparison to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of young people that I taught) who actually wanted to get to know her teacher. Candy and I became friends. I’m sure that I, along with others during that year, was a bit disappointed that Candy wouldn’t go to The University of South Alabama the next year because she would marry Arthur Carter even before graduation since he was going into the Air Force and wouldn’t be back in the Pensacola area. Adults shouldn’t be criticized for being doubtful about young people getting married this young because the track record for them isn’t all that good. We didn’t need to worry. The marriage of Candy and Arthur was meant to be, and none of us should have been overly concerned. They are still happily married and will be celebrating their 30th anniversary by spending five weeks in Europe this summer. And by the way, Candy told me that she still uses the pie plate that I gave her as a wedding plate. A pie plate! It must have been a good one. I just hope it was pretty, too.
Early in their married life, they were stationed in Germany; Candy tried to keep up with me while she was there, but I was a pitiful correspondent. Just think . . . I could have been keeping up with Candy through all of these thirty years instead of just re-connecting lately if I had just answered her letters. Yes, I have apologized, and she has graciously forgiven me. Candy is another student who has heaped accolades on me, especially for making grammar finally make sense to her. What a great compliment to one who became an English teacher largely because of being able to teach our language to teenagers and possibly helping them to love the language as much as I do. Candy credits my grammar instruction with making it possible for her to learn the German language. An English teacher’s dream is to be able to claim such credit!
Candy is the first former student to share a certain happiness with me: We are both grandmothers! We have become such good friends because of Facebook, and once again I’m so thankful that I took the leap and joined. By the way, envy is not a Christian virtue, but I’m certainly feeling a bit envious because of her trip in August! Candy and I will not let ourselves get out of touch again.
Isn’t it funny that memory can pick up on happenings from decades ago and transform them into nostalgia? That’s exactly what has happened to me with a young man who must be at least close to 50 by now. Pete Ruckman (AKA Peter Ruckman and P.S. Ruckman, but always Pete to me) graduated from Woodham High School in 1979, and I will never forget him . . . or his cohort, his “partner in crime,” Chris Tredway. They were unstoppable and unpredictable. Today’s post is just about Pete, though; maybe someday Chris will admit that he lives in the twenty-first century and join Facebook. Then perhaps I’ll write just about him.
Pete Ruckman . . . my goodness, what a character! If you’re familiar with the USA Network, the expression “Characters welcome” won’t be unfamiliar. Pete was truly a character, and he is truly welcome to my nostalgic mood today. Unlike other students from long ago, Pete has almost always been within my reach. I don’t know exactly how I knew where he was . . . maybe he dropped by school to keep me up to date. I don’t know. At some time, I found out that he was living in the Chicago area, teaching in Rockport, IL. I always intended to get in touch with him when I’d go to Chicago for McDougal Littell sales meetings to see if he might come to see me, to let me take him and his family to dinner; however, deep down, I’m a bit shy, and I didn’t want to hear that he couldn’t come. Pretty silly, now that I think about it.
Before I talk about having him in my College Prep class, let me hasten to say that Pete was an excellent student, a student who could do well with anything I was teaching but who could bring hilarity to the subject, making it fun for us. I don’t necessarily mean fun for the whole class, but for the two of us. Most of the time the fun was in writing because Pete was relatively quiet in class with just an occasional comment that would break us all up. His sense of humor was wonderful but still in the developmental stages. I noticed on his Facebook Profile that he belongs to a "sarcasm" group. I'll bet that today both his humor and his sarcasm have fully flowered and are a work of art. I hope so, anyway.
I don’t always have very specific memories of students’ activities in my classroom, but Pete Ruckman was different. I’m thinking of one day, probably on Thursday before research papers were due on Monday. Pete spoke up and asked if the class could have an extension on the date. I don’t know what happened to my head, or maybe my heart, but I gave them a few more days. Before I knew what was happening, that young man was at the front of the room. He grabbed my foot and kissed it . . . well, he didn’t literally kiss it. He just pretended, but the class thought the action was real. They cheered. Another time, he saw me in the hall and fell down at my feet, probably begging for something. What a character! The last memory that I’ll mention is gleaned from my memory of a day shortly after the students received their yearbooks, the Mnemosyne. My habit during those early years at Woodham , if a student happened to ask me to sign his or her yearbook, was merely to write something like “I enjoyed having you in class this year. Have fun at college! Come back to see me . . .” Well, when I wrote this inane comment, or something similar in his book, Pete once again ran to the front of the room, this time to chastise me for not writing a more personal comment. After all, we had enjoyed the year, and I should give him more than an enjoyed-the-year little nothing. You guessed it . . . I wrote something with meaning. This young man taught me a valuable lesson: I needed to be able to think back over the year quickly and mention something personal in each student’s precious Mnemosyne . . . and that’s just what I did for the next 20 years. For re-connecting actively with Pete Ruckman, thank you, Facebook.
I can’t believe that I forgot to tell you what these folks did after high school, what they’re doing now:
· Todd lives in California and dubs himself “musician by day, nurse by night.” He’s a registered nurse who loves playing bass. Check out this video, in which he’s playing in Seville Quarter with Joey Allred, Darin Boyd, and Mike Magno, original Velvet Melon members, along with Jay: http://www.youtube.com/solitaireg
· Candy Carter went to law school, passed the bar, and became a lawyer. After an automobile accident, she was left with disabilities that caused her to close her law practice. She’s hopeful, though, to do some mediation work after updating certifications later this year. She and Arthur have two sons and one granddaughter, Alli, the light of her life.
· P.S. Ruckman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL. He is married and has two little boys. At the risk of sounding simplistic, I’d term Pete an expert in presidential pardons. I’m sure I’m supposed to say that differently. He has written a forthcoming book: Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy. Check out his blog at www.pardonpower.com.
Nostalgia is “a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past” (The American College Dictionary). Today, nostalgia set in, and these three persons of the past, along with their situations, were very much a part of it. I loved today, and I’m very much grateful to Facebook for re-connecting me with these young people, my link to a past made up of some of the best years of my life.