I had not seen my first grade teacher in more than 30 years, and yet she looks exactly the same now as I remember her when she taught me to read at age seven. Saturday morning a reception in her honor was held at the private school I attended from first until fourth grade, a commemoration of Mrs. M's role as a founding member of the faculty. Claire, one of my primary classmates, shared the role of hostess and organizer with a girl who was a year ahead of us, who is now a physician.
The current headmaster of the school, a politically savvy shiny-smiling administrator, made repeated mention of the fact that many of Mrs. M's former students had become doctors, lawyers, and other secular successes, counting achievement in an entirely worldly context, which seemed perverse for a leader of a Christian educational institution. Not that these professions aren't worthwhile when practiced with integrity, that the number of Ivy League graduates isn't fun to calculate (one board member I chatted up spoke glowingly of so-and-so being at Harvard, and I recalled him being practically beside himself with joy when my brother was admitted to its Connecticut counterpart), but it is character and faith underpinning any intellectual achievement that counts in the end. I was quietly glad that Mrs. M pointed out that he'd omitted listing alumni who were ministers. She was most proud of the fact that all of her children had been able to recite a lengthy Scripture passage at the end of their academic tenure.
Both organizers, like the woman they were honoring, had changed little in the interim three decades, the only differences being greater height and a slight accumulation of gentle facial creases. They were sweet and kind then, and continue to be so to this day. I found that, like me, Claire returned to our hometown recently after years in the big city, and is a lifelong single. She is one of several people I had wished to know better when we were children; now there is opportunity to do so.
The estate sale this weekend was apparently a great success. However, I was not there to see it, as I left Bethesda just after noon on Friday--my dear boss and I worked until almost 2 AM Thursday night putting the finishing touches on the setup, and I had resolved to get a good night's sleep before I left for Georgia. After a brief stop at my friend DesertRose's house in Fairfax, where I had the pleasure of chatting with two of her three little boys, I continued on southward at a most inopportune time--the height of workweek-end rush hour, which left me crawling at 10 mph down I-95 in one of three lanes of bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic. After an hour and half of this, I decided to use my phone to search for the nearest franchise of my gym, and happily found it within ten minutes of my location. So I exited the interstate and worked out for an hour, which did wonders for my frame of mind and allowed some of the volume on the roads to dissipate--when I resumed my journey, the average speed had jumped to a comparatively brisk 30 mph, which after another thirty minutes or so actually edged up to the posted limit of 70. But then I was 2AM getting home. And when I got home I became preoccupied with opening the mail and packages that had arrived during my absence. And suddenly it was 7:30 AM, I hadn't slept, and the Mrs. M reception was to start at 10. Mums bailed me out, agreeing to drive me to the event, though she threatened to tell everyone I'd been too hungover to be behind the wheel.
Sunday afternoon my friend Shelly and I returned to church early to meet the members of a Belorussian choir that was singing our evening service. Our Russian was rusty, but we soldiered on, and the ladies with whom we conversed were patient and generous with our broken sentences, irregular conjugations and patchy vocabulary. It was so good getting to practice, though! The music was tremendous--beautiful in delivery and profound in lyric. The Russian style of singing thrills the listener to the core. Not only is the heart moved, the other organs vibrate like glassware in an earthquake. It made me want to run off to Eastern Europe at the earliest opportunity.
Another American, a ginger-haired kilted guy (a "one-man orchestra" as one of the Belorussians described him after hearing him play the penny whistle and take a turn on a borrowed balalaika, then reel off a chapter of other instruments he could handle), was at the practice, the pre-concert meal, in a front pew at the service, then lingering about afterwards as the singers were distributed to their host families. I see him every Sunday I'm in town, yet tonight as always couldn't bring myself to talk to him, no matter how tempted, nor actually to even meet his eyes. He possesses five damning characteristics which intimidate me to silence: he's handsome (very), tall (gack), single (oy), younger than me (probably early thirties), and, as aforementioned, absurdly musically talented (I can carry a tune...in a bucket). So although I love the kilt (and the way he looks in it!), and would like to know his story, I suppose the whole shall forever remain mysterious. Crumbs.