My wife gave me some of my memories back today. Being the dear lady that she is, she gave me a couple of small gifts this Easter Sunday. She never has to look far to find some shiny bauble that catches my eye, as I keep a hellishly detailed and expansive list of crap I’d like to have on my Amazon Wish List. I’m always and forever editing it, mainly adding to it but once in a while I remove things that fall into the “seemed like a good idea at the time” category. Usually CD’s that would leave me going “What the hell was I thinking?” were I to actually get it.
I seldom mention anything in particular on the list, as most of it would bore her. However, not many months ago, I got to thinking about Ann Arbor. I spent the longest part of my childhood there, so I label it as the place where I grew up. I’ve lost touch with damn near everyone I knew there when we lived there, but I’ve reconnected with a few. This has done a couple of things to me, fondly (or not so fondly) recalling life there, or struggling to remember things that happened almost 40 years ago.
One of my fonder memories was my 9th Grade English teacher. Her name was Mrs. Rothstein. Her husband probably called her Margaret, as that was her given name, but she was and will remain Mrs. Rothstein to me. She came to mind as a direct result of a post on Emmatree.com about the memories associated with a particular book. Not the book and its content itself, but what was going on around you at the time. Not something I’d really thought about in those particular terms. Naturally, my mind took off with the idea and had a grand time.
I recall very clearly reading Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (complete with a leering Jack Nicholson on the cover) less than a week after getting out of a 33 Day stay in a psychiatric wing of a hospital.
I remember reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and laughing so hard in places, my sides hurt. Then calling my friend Brian to tell him he HAD to read the book himself. This was in the day of expensive Long Distance phone calls.
I remember reading “Bristle Face” as a kid and crying my eyes out at the end of the book. I read it again a year later and cried all over again.
I remember wanting to read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” as a young teenager and only getting about 35 pages in before losing interest.
I remember being swept away by The Canon the first time I read “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” with Preface by Christopher Morley (that I actually read)
And finally, I remember reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time in Mrs. Rothstein’s English class. A book I have had a lifelong love affair with as a direct result of that class. (We read “Of Mice and Men” that year as well, another book I adore)
I’d been a difficult student until my 9th Grade year. Plenty of smarts, a decided lack of motivation had kept me from achieving my potential or consistently decent grades. Which is a long winded way of saying, I was bored and lazy. More lazy than anything, I must admit. But not in 9th Grade and certainly not in Mrs. Rothstein’s class. I don’t remember a whole lot of my other teachers, but I’ve never forgotten her.
She wrote a book, titled “And Other Foolish Questions I Have Answered.” I bought a copy, had her sign it and actually read it. And read it again later, I’m sure. However, over the years the book disappeared. Since I was reasonably sure that she’d either self-published or the publisher was a very small press, the book was out of print and I’d be hard pressed to obtain another copy. As a result, I sort of forgot about it. Until I read that article on Emmatree.com
Eventually I caught up with the whirlwind of thought and my mind wandered back to not just ‘Mockingbird’ but her book as well. Amazon came to the rescue and it went on my wish list. Today, it was a gift from my wife. I’ve read over half of it already. It’s not challenging, is well paced, and is compelling.
At one point this afternoon, I did what many people do; I Googled her. And just as Elaine gave me a bit of my past back, I found that Mrs. Rothstein had passed away some years ago. Too young, according to the age listed. I did some more searching, just to be sure but there isn’t much doubt in my mind now. Which saddens me because I wanted to tell her, I wanted Mrs. Rothstein to know that what she taught me in 9th Grade English class has stuck with me. More than just the love of a couple of classic novels, but a joy in reading books that are a bit more difficult, that are classics and judged that way for a reason. She opened my mind to explore books that were outside of my reading comfort zone and as a result I’ve read a lot of books I wouldn’t have considered. I wanted her to know that. Alas…
I don’t know as I’ve wanted to tell her about my writing poetry or not, although I’m sure it would have pleased her. Heck, I don’t even know if she would have remembered me. But, I remember her. And I always shall.