Have you ever truly embraced the notion that most of life’s lessons are really all about learning to say good-bye? I awoke to this realization one morning when I remembered Mrs. Reid’s second grade classroom…the same classroom where I heard my Mom’s exclamation, “She drew THAT?” Public School Week prompted room decorations to impress all the visitors and apparently my creation of an overly-stretched wiener dog with a big, Rudolph red nose peaked my parent’s curiosity for my “natural artistic bent.”
Memories of a different time in my favorite teacher’s classroom flooded my thoughts as I remembered celebrating Valentine’s Day. Heart shapes were stapled to every bulletin board in the school! Colored chalk hearts were drawn on black boards and cut-out paper hearts rained down from every light fixture in our classroom. I always wondered who helped Mrs. Reid hang those pumpkin shapes, snowflakes and now, the hearts, since she was a little on the portly side. I loved reaching around her middle to give and get my hugs. It’s such a shame that school children in today’s times cannot experience the warmth of a teacher’s loving embrace.
I remembered mostly the heart shaped cookies. Mrs. Reid had distributed two cookies to each student’s desk top while we were all at recess. The pink and red sugared icing glared back from atop the brown paper towels she had used for napkins. So vivid are my memories of the 32 desks in her classroom….
My Daddy had a new job in the Rio Grande Valley and our family was moving from Munday. Mrs. Reid and Mom had predetermined that the party would distract me from a tearful goodbye. Mom had come to pick me up and as she waited by the door in the back of the room, Mrs. Reid stood by me as I passed each student’s desk, row by row, friend by friend, to say “good-bye.” The Allen twins, Diana and Donna, Susan, Lana, Joe and Richard are a few I still remember. I don't remember getting to eat my heart cookies, but it was one of my first lessons in letting go and leaving Mrs. Reid left a big hole in my heart.
Upon arriving in our new hometown, Mom took me to my first day at Lincoln-Lee elementary school. Mrs. Davis was my new teacher and she assigned the front row seat just to the right of her desk. It made me an easy target for the chalk and board erasers she threw when she was frustrated that she could not convert this “lefty.” She was no “Mrs. Reid.”
Third grade brought another portly widow lady named Mrs. McDonald. She wore an apron every day and I loved reaching around her middle, too. I didn’t mind getting into trouble for being a “chatty Kathe” so that I could stay in from recess to have personal time with her.
I’ve said good-bye to many teachers through the years who loved me and encouraged me along the way…. Mrs. Brown, Spurgeon, Miss Graham, Mancias, Mr. Ayers, Trolinger, Snow and Coach Steele, and Mr. Dunham and Mr. Kochert, the art teacher and Mrs. Ward and Cherry from home economics. Though he was never my teacher, Coach Joe Green meant a lot to our family especially when my sister, Jann died. He took my brother, Chuck under his wing and channeled his loss to the football field. It was a tough time but Coach Green and a local pastor adopted a 15 year old boy who needed to learn to say hello to life again.
My college years brought more life teachers who filled in some gaps for learning to say good-bye…Dr. Pratt, Miss Shaver, Dr. Calabrese, Miss Stuckenbruck, Mr. Washmon and Mr. Walton.
Nameless are two professors who made huge impacts on my life. One remains nameless because I have tried hard to forget the experience of his art lecture when he held up my drawing for everyone to see. Apparently, it was an example of what he did NOT want. I can still see the paper floating to and fro towards the floor where he promptly placed one shoe and mashed my ego along with the drawing. I kept trying to please that man…
The other nameless professor taught freshman English 101. This composition class was the kind that students love to hate…a perpetual “pop test.” We sat at our desks with pen and paper in hand as she gave us the “prompt” to write about for the next 50 minutes. We turned in the papers and got a grade. One day we returned to our desks and our professor was handing back our most recent themes. I noticed everyone received theirs with the infamous red corrections, but she held mine for last and began reading aloud to the classroom. She finished and said, “Now, THIS is an example of the kind of writing I’m looking for.” I gladly worked even harder to please her.
There have been employers along the way that have been special and hard to say good-bye to. Artelle and Ramah Lee at the old Deb-n-Heir boutique in Raymondville gave me my first real job selling fine clothing and fashion accessories. My favorite item to sell was Hane’s hosiery (remember those?) because I wore them and I could describe their feel, looks, and performance. Genevieve Vondrachek in North Dakota was my first employer in the salon industry. She owned three salons and because of my Texas licensing restrictions, she sent me to Minneapolis and introduced me to the world of cosmetics as a beauty advisor for Merle Norman Cosmetics. I will never forget that midnight train passage across Minnesota and seeing my own version of “Dr. Zhivago” outside my window. And, who could forget having tea with Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics?
I worked for Mr. Frank Joseph, whose name our Texas Cosmetology Commission Building bears. What a privilege to work for him in Harlingen and with Melanie, who gave me a wonderful opportunity to own my salon at a time in my life when I needed solid relationships most. It was a time when I wanted less responsibility, and I learned a new definition of the word. I “responded with the ability I had.” God took my hand and led me each step of the way. His Spirit created our work environment and all our relationships, staff and clients, are founded on Christian principles.
Each time I moved, I said good-bye to pastors and their families. I think they know, understand and embrace the notion of saying good-bye better than anyone. People come and go in congregations either from geographical moves, misunderstandings and/or death. And pastors occasionally say good-bye to their church body when God calls for a move. I was 12 years old when Bro. Gene said, “Adios, amigos…” and resigned from our little church in Lyford to go to Victoria. The Lord brought him back to the valley and knit our hearts together again in Rio Hondo. I’m still proud to call him my pastor and Papa. Pastors Rick and Pete, Bro. Robert, Pastors Jack and Dave, Bill and Dr. Bob have all imparted wise words in due season for my life. I’m grateful to each of you.
I’ve saved the hardest for last and it brings me back around to Valentine’s Day and saying good-bye to friends. Death is the greatest sting and as I have said good-bye to Jann, Chuck, Sandra, Dad and Mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my heart has been so lonely I thought I, too, would die. My children grew up and now have families of their own to teach the lessons of “good-bye and hello.” Through this blog-writing process, I am finding the courage to see the holes in my heart that relationship losses have created. I see how I have sought approval and validation from my authority figures and made some bad decisions during vulnerable times. I have clung to possessions for sentimental reasons thinking somehow, I was keeping the people who gave them to me alive in my deadened heart. I’ve not wanted to look at what was clearly evident for everyone to see. What a burden it has been to carry all these years....
...But God deposited into my broken heart His Power to live life, not in my human strength, but in His Strength. 2 Corinthians 4:7 AMP says, “However, we possess this precious treasure [the divine Light of the Gospel] in frail, human earthen vessels that the grandeur and exceeding greatness of the power may be shown to be from God and not from ourselves.”
“His power perfects my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and right now, my heart is sooo full to know I am loved in this way. Thank you, Dr. Bob and Nancy for being teachers who allow me the freedom to fail, to stay or to leave, and to come back. I may not be someone’s Valentine sweetheart, but I whole-heartedly embrace the King of my heart Who will NEVER say, “Good-bye” but rather will someday say, "Hello, Kathe-Lynne, My beloved, welcome home..."
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