Patricia Sublette was my high school English teacher. I started thinking about her the other day when I read Mary of Flat Rock Creek Notebook’s reminiscence of her teacher. Mrs. Sublette was a very reserved and quiet person who rarely showed any emotion, save a small smile when something happened to please her.
My alma mater was a small country school where one did not receive a stellar education. My husband is one of the smartest people I know. He graduated from the same school, and when he went to college to major in chemical engineering, he nearly flunked out, mainly because of the lack of preparation for college that our school gave us. Most of the students who attended there had no intention of going to college. Their aspirations hardly went further than the local steel mills and coke (coal) factories, and a pay check as soon as they graduated, if they bothered to do so. We did not have AP classes (I’m not sure there even was such a thing then). We didn’t have gifted or accelerated learning classes. Everyone was all mixed together. I don’t think the teachers were inspired to push us. They probably felt they would be wasting their time.
Mrs. Sublette was from Huntington, West Virginia, which was about a thirty minute drive from our school. Because she was very quiet and non-assertive, and probably in her first couple of years of teaching, the rowdy boys in our classes sometimes gave her a hard time. I don’t remember her ever sending one of them to see the principal. I do remember once when our principal, Mr. Hayes, happened to be walking by one day when some of the boys were being disruptive. He was a strict disciplinarian and I thought he was going to tear that room apart when he saw how disrespectful the boys were being to the teacher. They behaved for quite a while after that incident.
I always sat in the front row in Mrs. Sublette’s class. I wanted to hear what she had to say. I loved grammar and literature, and she taught me more about both than I had learned in all the years before. She taught me to appreciate Shakespeare and poetry. She taught me to read a poem the proper way. I was sad when she left our school after my junior year. I never saw her again, never thanked her for making me a better student. I asked where she went, and someone in the office told me that she had gone back to West Virginia to get her master’s in English education.
I googled her name just to see if she showed up. There is a Patricia Sublette in Nitro, West Virginia, age 74. I think it might be her. It seems like the right age. I’m thinking about writing her a letter to thank her for being my teacher. What do you think?
The woman you love to hate
I watched the mini-series “Olive Kitteredge”, which is based on the novel by the same name, written by Elizabeth Strout. Olive is not a lovable person. She’s downright hateful and spiteful, disdainful of her mild-mannered husband, ridiculing of her vulnerable son. She has no tolerance for stupid people, and pretty much everyone with whom she comes into contact falls into that category, in her opinion. Well, she’s a bitch. There’s just no other word that describes her better. By the last installment, Olive changes, in minute ways, but considering her persona, they seem very large. She almost redeems herself. Frances McDormand’s performance as Olive is compelling. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Richard Jenkins as her husband is perfect. The whole mini-series is perfectly cast. I think it’s something that I will have to watch again to catch all of the nuances. I haven’t read the book yet. It’s on my list.
See you soon,