LC Van Savage
Thanks To My Teacher
She had a huge influence on me, did Miss Willard. I’d never forgotten her. She was my second grade teacher and I remember being in her classes as if it were yesterday, if one can consider 60 years ago as “yesterday.”
Back in 1985 I began to think it was really time I made a serious effort to get in touch with people who’d treated me with kindness when I was a kid. I dearly wanted to thank them. Did I conversely want to get in touch with those who were obnoxious twits and who made my life a living hell? Nah. Those memories get flicked into the nethers by me. Letting go of the SOB factor can be real easy if you know how to do it. It’s all in the wrist.
But the good ones. Yes, they deserved my thanks for the good things they did. Miss Willard was one. She was so patient, encouraging, told me I’d be a great writer one day (OK, so she wasn’t a seeress,) taught me how to tell time, even on clocks with Roman numerals, how water expands when it’s frozen, (she’d put a glass medicine bottle half full of water out on a window ledge in January so we could see it expanded and broken the next day,) how to add and subtract, how to save yourself in a fire, how to treat people, how to be loving. She was the best.
Thus I began my search. This was pre-Internet, so it took some doing. I found a few of these good people, but most importantly I found Edith Willard. I wrote to her and she wrote back. Yesterday I found her twenty-year old letter w/her photo enclosed, still the sweet-faced, dear woman she was back in 1946. Here in part is what she wrote:
“Elsie, you darling! Your letter made my quiet life take on a rosy glow. To think that after all these years you cared enough to get in touch with me has given me a real boost.
“I moved from Staten Island to Jacksonville, Fla. years ago, but hated the climate. Guess I’m just too much of a damned Yankee to like the south.
“My cousin made out a list of retirement homes and so I settled here in Pine Run Community in Doylestown, PA. I’m contented here but I miss all the friends and activities I had on Staten Island. Not having a car is an awful handicap but I have osteoporosis of the spine and severe arthritis from head to toe, so driving would be impossible anyway. Oh to be as young and lively as I was when I was your teacher, Elsie! I remember those days so well. Do you still love bugs and butterflies, caterpillars and spiders? Do you still carry a pet mouse in your pocket? Do you still haul around those huge rock and shell collections in your wagon? Did you ever become the writer you always told me you would?
“I’m so glad you have such a happy life now, Elsie. I know things were very difficult for you back then but amazingly, you were always cheerful, friendly and kind to everyone. I have vivid memories of that laughing, curly-haired child. What fun you were.
“I’m enclosing a picture of this old gal and you needn’t say I haven’t changed a bit! (She hadn’t.) Thank you for all the flattering things you said about me which I don’t deserve, but most of all, thank you for remembering me. You just cannot begin to know how much it meant to me to receive your letter. You thank me for what I did for you way back then, but it is I who thanks you for the gift of your letter. Fondly, Edith M. Willard.”
She still made me feel important. She lived another year. Thanks, Miss Willard.
As an author with several books published, LC Van Savage still finds time for air time and an active community service life.
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