I grew up in a small town.
Like, small in that the junior high and senior high in our town were in one school building, and the elementary school was also attached to that building. When I was in 7th grade, the first day of junior high, I was assigned a seat in the back of the bus with a senior girl who was probably the most beautiful girl in the whole small school.
Maybe even in the whole town.
But let’s back up.
There were two 6th grade teachers in our small town school. I had Mrs. Quinn. So did most of my friends, but it didn’t matter; we were all friends back then. There were not that many of us.
Mrs. Quinn and her husband, Mr. Quinn, went to our church. My parents and aunts and uncles went to school with their children. In fact, one of their daughters was my aunt’s best friend. Mr. and Mrs. Quinn’s grandchildren were only a year or two younger than me. Mr. Quinn taught gym class in high school; my mom and dad and aunts and uncles all had him when they were in high school.
Mrs. Quinn was nice and smiled a lot. We all liked her. She was old to us then, but she wasn’t, not really. She was a sweet woman who made me feel like she loved our class, like she loved me.
She probably really did. After all, she practically knew my whole history, had seen me grow up.
Mrs. Quinn assigned the same science project every year, early in the fall: a leaf collection. We were to collect leaves from the trees around our small town and identify them, press them onto pages along with a description of each, creating a mini-encyclopedia of leaves. We didn’t have the internet back then. Back then, we looked each leaf up in the set of encyclopedias or other reference books that Mrs. Quinn kept in her classroom or in the school library. I used the same autumn-themed binder that my older brother had used for his own leaf collection two years before. I didn’t have enough room on the page of my book for the giant tulip tree leaf and its seed pod; it took up two pages.
Mrs. Quinn gave me an A on that leaf project, as she did most other projects that year. I was a good student back then, and I loved my teacher.
Mrs. Quinn still lives in that small town where I grew up. She retired from teaching years ago, and buried Mr. Quinn just this year. The last several years of her life were spent taking care of him. I haven’t seen Mrs. Quinn in many years; I don’t go home very often. Likely she wouldn’t remember me if we met today.
But then again, she just might. After all, she practically knew my whole history, had seen me grow up.
This post inspired by:
Prompt 1: Your sixth grade teacher.