You’ve got mail!

Or rather, I’ve got mail! I was so excited today to reach into my mailbox and discover a letter from my teacher, Mrs. Sublette. She wrote back to me, and very quickly. I couldn’t wait to read it, and I knew immediately that it was the right Patricia Sublette, because I recognized her handwriting after all these years!

Dear Susan,

Life is full of surprises. Your letter is one of them and a priceless gift to me. Your letter arrived on a cold, snowy day and what a way to warm the cockles of my heart! Out of a nearly 30 year teaching career, you are the only student to have written me a letter, though I have had some half dozen former students to come back to see me. I could not help shedding a few tears of gratitude to know that I made a difference for someone. A teacher is often left wondering if he or she has made an impact.

That first paragraph would have been enough to make me feel wonderful, but she goes on…

When I left Symmes Valley for the year 1971, it was to go to Marshall (University) to get a Master’s in English education. Through the grapevine word came back to me that you said, “What does she want to do that for?”

I don’t remember asking that, but I probably did ask Mr. Hayes (the principal) why she wasn’t coming back. Why in the world would she want to leave us? To better herself? Unfathomable!

Mrs. Sublette says that she definitely remembers me as being a very smart young lady, including me with several other students, some of whom were friends of mine, and she was absolutely correct about them. She also told me a little about her life. She and her husband didn’t have children, and they were divorced in the late seventies, after which she left their then residence in Illinois and moved back to her hometown of Nitro, West Virginia. Her father built a house for her, and she lives there to this day.

She has some health problems, but it sounds as if she leads a very active life. Mrs. Sublette belongs to a book club, and among the fifteen of them, they read a total of 1,176 books last year! She reads e-books on her Kindle, and she has email and wi-fi. She asked if I wanted to continue corresponding with her! Of course I do! I can’t wait to find out more about the person she is now and the person about whom I wish I had learned more all those years ago. Her closing words were…

How can I find your blog? Best wishes to you and thank you so very much for your kind words and for warming my heart.

P.S. I’m still stunned that two people can connect after 45 years across time and space.

(In red pencil)

P.P.S. I still have my red pencil!

She had to redline some of her own text, because her computer wouldn’t cooperate. 🙂

I can’t say how thrilled I am about this development, and I plan to write again very soon. I’m debating whether to continue the correspondence by email, or by good old-fashioned snail mail. There’s something about opening your mailbox….

See you soon, Susan

What I wrote

If you read yesterday’s post, then you will know that I was considering a letter to my former high school teacher, Mrs. Sublette. I thought I would share with you what I wrote. It’s in the mail. Please be kind.

 

Dear Mrs. Sublette,

 

I am hoping that you are the Patricia Sublette who taught English at Symmes Valley High School from 1968 until 1970. If you are not, then, hopefully, you will enjoy this letter anyway. I’m sorry to be typing instead of writing by hand, but I have arthritis in my hands, and you will have a much easier time of reading it this way.

 

My name is Susan (Jenkins) Drummond, and you were my English teacher for my freshman and junior years. I don’t know if you will remember me. I’m sure that I did nothing to set myself apart from all the other students you must have had over the years, but I wanted you to know that I have always remembered you fondly.

 

Of all of the teachers that I had in middle school and high school, you were the teacher who taught me more than anyone else. I have always spoken highly of you. Because of you, I was able to understand and read poetry properly. Because of you, Shakespeare was no longer a mystery. Because of you, I learned to use grammar correctly, in speaking and in writing. My only wish was that our curriculum at the time had been more focused on writing, or that there had been a creative writing class. I know that you had nothing to say about that. It was a different place and time. Things are so much different for high school, and even middle school, students now. The focus is on getting every student into college, not just a select few.

 

I graduated as valedictorian of my class (1971), and received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Ohio University’s Ironton branch, when it was in its infancy. Alas, I only attended for one quarter before dropping out to get married. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take full advantage of my good fortune to continue my education. I suppose you could say that I have self-educated through reading. I have always been a voracious reader, and now I write on a blog. I write about daily life and sometimes current events, and I do a few book and movie reviews. It is gratifying to have other people read and appreciate what one has to say, and to read other “ordinary” people’s thoughts and ideas. I have found that there is an amazing number of talented and creative women who write on blogs.

 

Computers and the internet have changed the world and the way people learn. I don’t know if you have embraced this way of learning, but I love it. The only downside I can see is that, in some ways, it can make one’s brain a little lazy. It is so easy to just look up an answer on the internet, rather than searching one’s brain, or the library, for it.

 

I don’t want to bore you by going on and on, but I think you would want to know a little about my life, before I go. I married David Drummond (Symmes Valley, class of ‘68) and we had three children. He is a retired chemical engineer, who worked for Ashland Chemical for 37 years. I was mostly a stay-at-home-mom, making things easy for him with his long hours and travel. We have lived in a few different places around the country during his working years:  Orlando area, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Pittsburgh, and we finally settled in central Ohio at the end of his career. We have six grandchildren, four of whom live with us, along with our daughter, who is finishing her degree at Ohio State. We love having them so close. They keep us young and active.

 

In closing, Mrs. Sublette, I want you to know how much your being my teacher has meant to me over the years. I’m sorry that I never took the time to write to you before now, but I hope that it will bring a good feeling to you, knowing that I really enjoyed having you in my life. I hope that you are well and enjoying life.

 

With fondness and best regards,

P.S.  The entire time I have been writing this letter, I’ve imagined you holding a red marking pencil in your hand, and correcting my mistakes. 🙂

I left out a lot of the reasons why I dropped out of college without giving it the, ahem, “old college try”, but I thought she might think it was partly her fault, and it wasn’t at all. I just didn’t want to muddy the waters.

I really hope that she receives it. Fingers crossed.

See you soon,

Susan

Random musings—hump day

Mrs. Sublette

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,

Susan