Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for NEVER say NEVER!


When I was an adjunct professor at Jackson County Junior College in Gautier, Mississippi, I many times taught night classes. During the summer of 1968, I taught English 101, and after studying several short stories, I gave my students the assignment to write a short story. Why I did that, I’ll never know. I couldn’t write one myself, so how was I to fairly evaluate what they wrote?

I remember stumbling through almost all of them, trying to sound intelligent as I read and graded and tried to be fair. And then I came to the story that both surprised and disappointed me. One of my favorite students, a handsome young man who (excuse me, please) was as dumb as a rock, had written a beautiful story.

When I returned the stories at the next class meeting, my students were happy with their grades and my comments, for the most part. The writer of the beautiful story had a puzzled look as he read my comment: Please see me after class.

He stayed after class, and I saw that same puzzled look on his face. “Why did you want to see me, Miz Young?”

“Well, this is an absolutely beautiful story, but I’m afraid it’s not yours. It was written by Edgar Allan Poe and is called ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’”

“It IS? I thought it sounded familiar when I wrote it!”

So why have I started this post with this story from so long ago? Because what I’m about to write sounds familiar. I think I’ve written it before! But I’m going to write it again.

I can think of three important times in my life when I said something like, “I’ll never do that!” But I did.

The first time was when I was in college. My roommate and I used to walk to the PO every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after chapel, and on the way, we passed a really decrepit looking two-story house on North Monroe Street. We’d practically look the other way as we walked by, wondering who would ever want to live there. Well, I’ll tell you who wanted to live there. Frank and I did! After we were engaged and planning to marry, Frank investigated and found that we could have an apartment in that house, Kell’s Cottage, for free. All he had to do was renovate so that we’d have a nice place to life after we married. And after he worked his magic on our apartment in that old building, we had the prettiest apartment in town.

The second time actually precedes the first. I always said that I’d never marry before I graduated from college; however, when I met Frank Young, that promise to myself vanished. We met in February 1961, had our first date on March 10 of that year, were engaged in July, and married in December. Not a very long courtship, but a very long marriage. We’ll have been “hitched” for fifty-four years on December 17, 2015!

The third began in the early ‘60s, when Frank and I used to drive by Beulah School in Pensacola either on our way back to Mississippi College after a weekend with my parents or on our way to Pascagoula, where we lived after we graduated. As we drove by, we’d very snootily say, “We surely wouldn’t let our children go to THAT school. It’s so run down!” Never say never! We moved to Pensacola in 1969, and the house that we bought was in Beulah district, and our sweet little girl started first grade there. Do you remember the old saying, “You can’t tell a book by its cover?” Well, it surely does apply to Beulah School. Both of our children received such a good education at that little run down country school! The teachers were the best, and there wasn’t a principal anywhere who was a good as Eugene Winters. He knew every child in the school, knew exactly how to get in touch with his or her parents, and could drive directly to the homes of the children.

I’m here to tell you that every time I said NEVER and then gave in, I was blessed, truly blessed. We lived right in the house with other ministerial students and their families, and they became our best friends (with the exception of one couple, about whom I may write someday). Of course, I’m blessed to have married Frank. He was and still is my best friend, and I can’t imagine not being married to him. It was right for us to marry right when we did. And Beulah was perfect for both our children and us. That’s where their education began, and it was a very good start.

I’m surely not sorry that I broke my promises to myself!


Marcy said...

Great advice. We never know what adventures the future will bring!

Nancy said...

Your introductory story sounds so familiar. I pointed out to a student that I had found an essay just like hers on the internet, and she got big eyes, and say, "Ooh, that's scary!"

I said, "No, it is not. You copied it."

I like those nevers. I'm definitely glad you kept Frank.