Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Visitor

The last of the children’s voices fade as the hands on the oversized clock reach 3:30. Thank goodness, she tries not to think to herself at her desk, putting papers to be graded into her bag. Another Friday over, another week completed, she sighs, as she always does now. She stopped counting the days long ago. But she still wanders slowly through the classroom at the end of each one, picking up the pink glittery pens under Kimberly’s desk and throwing away the broken tooth-marked pencils under Jason’s.

She hears Principal Ackley’s voice in her head as she always does, scolding her for the umpteenth time, “Go home. You’ve done what you came to do today: you’ve poured yourself into people. Now go home and take care of You!” Poured yourself into people. She can’t help thinking it’s her fourth graders who are doing the pouring. In and out of her room so quickly, year after year, nearly oblivious to her it seems, like the tide in her science wall photo.

“Although you can’t see it,” she tells her class every year, “there’s a world of life and wonder in that swirling water, and every single wave is different. You never know what the next one will bring.”

Footsteps approach in the hallway. “I’m too late,” she grumbles, trying to work up a smile as she turns to meet Mr. Ackley’s command. But in the doorway is a young couple. Both are nicely dressed, but the first thing she notices is the man’s shocking red hair. Although short and nicely trimmed, it draws her eye like a magnet. No one could ever forget hair like that, she thinks.

“Miss Rosa?” he asks. It takes her a moment to adjust.
“Um, I was Miss Rosa. I’m Mrs. Thompson now. For about 11 years. 12 years, actually, next month,” she adds, wondering why.

“Oh, right,” says the young man, with an embarrassed smile. “Congratulations,” he adds quickly, looking like he’s said something silly.

“Thank you,” she offers, smiling gently to encourage him to continue despite his bumpy start. One of her many teacher habits, this one from speech assignments.

He starts again. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I was in your class 15 years ago. I think it was in the room next door. Anyway, I’m David Simons, and I was a real terror. I was the squirmy one, always spilling glue and getting my sleeves in it, and taking things from other kids and then running around the room to get away from them. You always had to use your Yelling Voice with me, and I spent half my time at the principal’s office. I even kicked you a few times till you told me I’d miss Movie Time on Fridays. But when I did get to be at Movie Times, you always let me put the reel on and run the projector. I kind of lived for Movie Times, even more than recess.”

“I remember,” Mrs. Thompson says, barely above a whisper.

“Anyway,” he continues, “I just wanted to come by and say Hi. I’ve just started my own corporate video production business, sort of doing Movie Days every day. I went to college and everything,” he chuckles, shifting from side to side now, just as he always did when he was excited.

“I majored in communications, and always remembered how you said that presenting a clear idea is like placing stepping stones in the water. Even if you can jump across easily, you have to place the stones one after the other, so that other people can easily follow you across the pond without falling in.”

He pauses. Miss Rosa (she is now Miss Rosa once again) notices the young lady gently lean into him. He looks quickly at her, and takes her hand, as he turns back to his teacher.
“Oh, this is Naomi, my fiancée. We came home for the weekend to announce our engagement to my parents. You’re actually getting to hear it before they are.”

His fiancée smiles and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a fabric designer, and a rather impatient one. So David’s always playfully badgering me with your line from art class, ‘Measure twice, cut once.’”

Miss Rosa stares at her, then quickly reaches to take the young lady’s extended hand.
“It’s very nice to meet you, too,” is all the teacher can say.

“Anyway,” David says, “I just wanted to come by to thank you for putting up with me, and to let you know that all your hard work wasn’t in vain. I’m sorry I was such a handful, and I just wanted to thank you for everything you did. Especially for Movie Times,” he adds.

“You’re welcome. Thank you for coming by.”

“Well, have a nice weekend, thank you again,” he says.

And then he hugs her.

When they part, he takes his fiancée’s hand again. “So nice to meet you,” the young lady says as they walk out.

Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Thompson thinks, unable to speak. And congratulations.

“Although you can’t see it,” she tells her class every year, “there’s a world of life and wonder in that swirling water, and every single wave is different. You never know what the next one will bring.”

Mr. Ackley comes to the door.

“Well, another week of pouring into people. Now go home and take care of You,” he says firmly. Then he grins, as if he knows a secret. “And have a wonderful weekend.”

Through blurry eyes, Mrs. Thompson smiles back.
“Yes,” she says. “I certainly will.”

* * *

This short story captures the essence of the new creative project I promised to tell you about. The project is called I Never Got to Thank You. I’ll post all the details tomorrow (I promise!), and I’ll tell you how you can participate with me.
Thank you so much for reading!


  1. Bill - this is a wonderful way to introduce this project. This post and the last as well. I am excited for you and I am blown away that you chose to personally invite me as well. I will be happy to participate. More from me in the next few days.

    Once the post about the project is up about the project - I'll link over here. Have a wonderful day.

  2. Such a lovely project idea, Bill! Can't wait to watch it turn into the Success that it WILL BE. :) The spirit behind this is really close to my heart so I'll be cheering you on and doing all I can to help!
    cheryl :)

  3. Good luck with this very interesting project Bill. I look forward to follow this.

  4. Dear Bill,

    Your I Never Thanked You project is wonderful.

    We are so very happy to have met you and your artistic wife, Nancy, and look forward to joining in this journey of participating in a very lovely project.

    Happy evening,
    Tracie and Shayne

  5. Hi Bill!
    Can't wait to hear all about your project. I just discovered your wife's blog as well - you are both lovely!

  6. Forgot to add: We love your mélange of desk items at top regarding your new project, Bill.

    Tracie and Shayne


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