We met my first year of teaching. I was enthusiastic, motivated, and, without a doubt, wet behind the ears. You had fifteen years of teaching under your belt, so you were seasoned, honed, and realistic. I needed you that first year, your encouragement, advice, support, and not just in regards to teaching. I have needed you every year since then too.
After meeting and talking and talking and talking, we realized we grew up only a hop, skip, and jump from one another, and I think this simply solidified our similarities. Perhaps, the Midwest can do that to people.
You welcomed me into your home, allowed me to play with your kiddos, and invited me to your various house parties. Come to think of it, I am just now truly making use of those stamps I bought years ago.
We laughed until we cried riding on a school bus with a driver who spent more time looking in his overhead mirror than looking at the road. Grateful you were with me on the first field trip I ever hosted, you took the lead when a child’s mother ended up having diarrhea while this yellow means of transportation was in motion. I, in the meantime, had my nose poked out the window in an attempt to put an end to my retching. Yes, I was useless.
This same year, we fell in love with crew neck sweatshirts adorned with various patterned fabrics and sayings due to a student’s talented mother. With overwhelming trust, you permitted me, with no beauty expertise whatsoever, to trim your hair in your classroom after school one day using a student’s borrowed scissors.
At the end of that first year after we had said our farewells to the rest of the staff, we walked out the doors of this school together. You would be returning the next year while I took a teaching gig in another town. I remember panicking at the thought of having to teach without you down the hall and the idea that perhaps our friendship may grow apart with distance. This did not happen; if anything my heart grew fonder for you with the absence.
Fifteen years later, we have so many more tales to tell and so many more memories to create. So, on this your birthday, I wish you great love and much bliss along with bus rides free of diarrhea.