by Suzanne Hannay, English Teacher
- We started to talk about the old sophomore class, the other students in that class, the funny thing someone had said, the day of the vocabulary quiz revolt—lots of things I couldn’t imagine anyone remembering.
The green Academy van headed south on Route 91, carrying a collection of teachers and students toward Brooklyn, New York, to the wake of a student’s mother. The mood was pretty solemn and thoughtful. Each of us sat quietly—oddly isolated on our journey. I found myself seated in front of a girl I had taught when she was a sophomore.
I remembered how fond I had been of her but how shy she was then, and not wanting to push too hard, I would let her keep her distance. I recalled that she had come to my study one evening late in the spring of that year with a draft of a story she had been working on. We looked it over together and I encouraged her to “keep after it” and to bring it back to me when she returned in the autumn.
But as things often seem to go even between the closest of teachers and students, I found that other sophomores had arrived to fill her place in my class. She, in turn, had moved ahead to become a superstar in her own right. Talents hinted at when she was a sophomore had turned into accomplishments: class officer, captain of varsity athletic teams, dormitory proctor, early decision at an Ivy League university. I realized sitting there in the van that I was pretty much in awe of her. It had been a long time since that night in May when I read her story.
“Ms. Hannay, would you still have a copy of what you said at Mr. Widmer’s installation that I could have?” she asked, breaking in on my reverie. “Why—ah—sure. I probably have about 500 extra copies,” I joked. “I’d be honored.”
We started to talk about the old sophomore class, the other students in that class, the funny thing someone had said, the day of the vocabulary quiz revolt—lots of things I couldn’t imagine anyone remembering.
“We had a great class,” she said and in the same breath, laughed nervously. Then we talked more about her senior year and what she looked forward to in the months before she left Deerfield. The journey was all the shorter for this.
The next day, I sent her my thin little piece of writing with a note to say how much I had enjoyed our conversation and that I had missed her all these months.
A few days later, I found a packet of papers under my door. It was a short story. With it was a note: “I had an overwhelming desire to give something back to you, just a little something to let you know I appreciate you, but I didn’t own anything of worth. Later, I realized I did. I give you this with shaking hands because I am not a confident writer yet. I hope you enjoy it.”
I thought, she will never know how much.