Tuesday, January 5, 2010

MANDINGO


Dear Diary,

I had a teacher in high school that was really exceptional. That is what teachers strive to be - I am learning this in school! I don't know that I knew at the time she was exceptional or even if she knew she was exceptional but looking back - she was exceptional. I'm trying to picture her in my mind- close knit perm, cat eye glasses, momma clothes.....but I'm getting side tracked. She taught me 10th grade English and Journalism when I was a junior or senior. She was the sponsor for the school Newspaper. I hung out with the newspaper staff so I was sort of a honorary staffer that never wrote anything but posed for pictures when they needed someone in a pinch. Another perk was getting to go to their parties! She had a ranch off the Highway between Columbus and Starkville and raised Brahma Bulls of all things. Passing by in the car at sixty miles an hour you wouldn't get to look twice if you thought you saw a Brahma bull instead of a Holstein or a Jersey. But she had them. The ranch had a lake, and those big hay bales that are round and tall and fun to climb on when you aren't overweight and arthritic.

I really liked my teacher and we got along just fine so I guess it was no surprise when we remained friends after I graduated from high school. I still called her by her adult name, Mrs. Pittman. I never thought of calling her Jane. She was older than my Momma and that just wasn't done!

After high school, I went to an all girls University which was in our home town. They let boys attend now but that's a different story. I could tolerate most of my classes that first year but had an awful time in freshman English. The professor was an old sour woman who wore dark clothes and was virtually unapproachable. Actually the memory of that class is vague. I'm sure I tried my best in class but I had a very busy social life and there was free beer for ladies every Thursday Night at the Welding Works. Every paper I got back graded looked like the drop cloth for a sacrificial lamb (or some similar analogy). That old biddy used a red pen and would just mark all over my paper. I knew I was an A or B student so what was this with the Cs and Ds? I decided to try a little experiment. I asked my exceptional former teacher if she would help me with a paper for my college class. She said she would be happy to and that her husband was working all night at the local small motor factory (Which coincidentally I got a job there after college graduation and worked there too for a year, then got laid off) so why didn't I spend the night Friday?

That Friday I went to her house and she said, "Lisa, there is this movie I want to go see at the Varsity. Do you want to go? I said sure!" So after she wrote my paper for me we went. She said the movie was called Mandingo and it was set in the deep south before "the conflict". We got popcorn and drinks and settled into our seats. I had no idea what I was about to see and I don't think she did either. Through out the movie she would whisper to me I need to go smoke a cigarette. I was glad I didn't smoke because I didn't want to miss any of it! I got my eyes full and quite an education. After a particularly moving scene, I got worried about my exceptional teacher because she had been smoking longer normal. I hated to miss any of the action but...I walked backwards up the popcorn grease stained red carpet to the lobby, pushed the door open and quickly glanced out, there she was pacing and smoking. No need to interrupt her. She spent the majority of the movie in the lobby, smoking.

About eight or nine years ago when I was visiting my parents, I went by to see Mrs. Pittman. We immediately took up again where we left off. We didn't go to the movies, and she didn't write papers for me (She got a C too!) but we did correspond by email. She loved receiving and sending funny emails. I visited her every time I went home and one of my visits I took the kids and my husband with me. Frank took a picture of us. I need to find it. She died of cancer a few years after we reconnected. I sure do miss her.

8 comments:

Leslie said...

I was in her "accelerated" English class in 10th grade, too. 1968-69. It is the only high school class of which I have clear memories. We were seated alphabetically; I sat behind Susan Burgin and to the right of Forrest Allgood. One's dead now and one's a district attorney. I miss Mrs. Pittman.

whymsicalmusings said...

What a wonderful story I am so glad you shared it. It is always nice to reminisce and remember those people who touch our lives.

XXXX
Becky

eclectic archivist said...

I remember seeing the movie Mandingo...yes it was an education!

Heartinmyhand said...

Lisa, Your stories are always so wonderul to read.
Thanks for sharing

TheresainMS said...

Thanks for sharing this story! My most remembered teacher was my English teacher as well. She taught 11th grade English at Coahoma County High School in Clarksdale, MS. Her name is Ernestine Bridgeforth. All the kids were scared to death of her as she was so *tough*. I was petrified of her too but I learned more from her than from any other teacher I can remember. Your story brought back all those fond memories so thanks again for sharing!

Thanks for visiting my blog; have a great Friday!!

Paris Cowgirl said...

I just love your stories!

Esther said...

No offense intended, but would you hurry up with your school work so you could get back to entertaining us? Gee whiz!
Will Sarah Ann and I have to perform a tap dance routine before we get another story out of you? :) Miss your great stories Lisa!!!

Michele said...

Oh no. Don't tell me your gone, just when I came back. I miss reading your diary. It's always good for a smile, snort, guffaw, chortle, giggle... well you get the picture. Just hurry up and make me laugh again!