Practical Memories: One Teacher’s Attempt at Cultivating Potential

 

This post is a continuation of “A Herbal Beginning.” 

   The years I spent in high school were a lowlight for me–all four years. Every day was a struggle, largely due to the machinations of a series of nefarious women who would—absurdly—assume the “stepmother” moniker and who were adept in their ability to at once ignore me and rebuke me.
     I had always wanted to be a zoologist—but my math and science grades were not much above rubbish. All ninth graders were required to take a typing course, and I excelled in it. Based on my good grades, I was encouraged to enroll in additional courses, such as office procedures, shorthand and general business. Almost every course I took was taught by one particular teacher.

Almost every course I took was taught by one particular teacher.


     Mrs. Horton was in her forties, as far as I could determine, and I quickly grew to love her teaching style. But not everyone liked her, and many times before she would arrive for the start of class, the catty and cruel comments, ranging from her hair style to the fact that she was childless, would morph and proliferate into vindictive rumors. Consequently, she would spend several minutes at the beginning of the next day’s class addressing the rumor with a personal story in the hopes of ending the roundabout, but her stories, as harmless as they were, only seemed to provoke and enrage those who held grudges.
     For those of us who liked and admired her, she was our champion, encouraging and uplifting, and she seemed truly happy with her choices. When Mrs. Horton offered her reason for a child-free life—she and her husband deliberately chose to not bring children into such a tumultuous world—I felt sorry for her and envious at the same time.
     My ordeals at this point, as I realize now, prevented me from developing passions and interests, and I suppose my exposure to the world of herbs was my first attempt to abandon my mental malaise and embrace something productive and beneficial. They were something I could nurture, and their growth—from seed or seedling to full-grown plant—was the only gift I needed in return. And all because I gave them a home in some dirt in full sun and made sure they were never parched.

I gave them a home in some dirt…


     By the time I had discovered the world of herbs, Mrs. Horton and I had become “friends” as much as a teacher and student can be. A few of us—those who liked her and respected her teaching talents—would occasionally be invited to her house to swim. When her husband built a greenhouse for his wife, my time was spent there instead of the pool, and I vowed to have one of my own someday (next year, my husband promises me).
     When I needed a small plot of garden overturned, Mrs. Horton’s husband readily agreed to my request for the use of his rototiller, and I remember sitting on the grass and talking with my favorite teacher and friend while he dug into the earth. She listened to me, and that alone satiated my need to matter—to be relevant.
     Mrs. Horton encouraged me to enroll in progressively advanced typing and shorthand classes, but by the time I was a senior, my interest in this course of study waned. After a four-month secretarial stint at a local middle school ended, one in which I was a “secretary” for a counselor, I had little desire to pick up a pad and pen again. I no longer wanted to be a secretary.

I no longer wanted to be a secretary.


     Unfortunately, typing and shorthand were my only areas of expertise, so, with Mrs. Horton’s urging, I enrolled in a local college’s secretarial program. But after my first year, I switched my major to Psychology, and I felt better about my new curriculum.
     A few months into my new major, a friend mentioned that Mrs. Horton had been disappointed upon hearing I had changed my field of study. I had lost touch with my former teacher due to my classes and my job, and now I felt sorry that I had not talked with her first.
     In the end, my efforts to redirect my goals were misspent, for the next year my funds dried up, and I had to drop out of college. Once again, the only thing I could do reasonably well—type and take dictation—would guide my choice of “career.” I felt trapped, with no meaningful prospects, and I suffered under someone’s heel for years.
     I never spoke with Mrs. Horton again, and I am the poorer for it.
     These memories swirl about as I weed between the lemon balm, chives, oregano and sage.

These memories swirl about as I weed between the lemon balm, chives, oregano and sage.

She was at once my counselor and supporter and a teacher of academics and of diligence. She tried her best with me, and my grades at graduation, while not brilliant, offered me a practical leg up, but I allowed my objectives to fade away until they became nothing more than wishful thinking. I would enroll in college again, but not until much later.
     Such as it was until my daughter was born, but that is another story altogether.

Feature Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay 
Typewriter Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay 
Rake Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay 
Sage Image by kathleenjae.com

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