The year was 92’ and the trunk was raw… in my rear view mirror was the MF law. No, just kidding. But shout out to Jay Z. Ok seriously, the year was 92’ and I was sitting about third row back far right aisle in Ms. Springer’s first grade class. Now that I think about it, throughout my 20 years of formal education I am usually about third row back on either the far right or left aisle…symbolically close to either the nearest window or door. We had a speaker in class that day, if my memory serves me correctly it was Mrs .Jackson, our then principal. Many years later in life I would fall into deep friendship love with her daughter Courtney during my time at Clemson and get to know her and her family better…they’re outstanding people. But at the time she was just my not too threatening, maybe even nice considering she was the biggest authority figure in my world aside from my own empowered mother…principal at Busbee Elementary. A title 1, 1A elementary school in an impoverished but hopeful small town, SC.
That day, early in our impressionable young lives, she was there to talk to us about goals and visions for our distant futures. I’m sort of recollectively assuming that was the topic of the speech based on one blazing memory. I remember absolutely nothing else about the speech but one brief moment. Everything before and after it is sort of a foggy haze…blurring into attempts at subtraction, carrying numbers, understanding the concept of syllables and other taxing first grade feats. The thick haze parts. I’m doodling on a piece of paper absent mindedly listening to what she is saying and certainly day dreaming simultaneously about whatever book I was reading at the time, probably a Ramona book, when I hear her specifically address the young ladies in the classroom. The current day dream momentarily lifts and my ears perk up, although I don’t let on that I’m listening anymore than I was seconds before. My pencil stays poised over the curly cue I had been swirling, but it no longer moves…anticipating the wisdom soon to be imparted to my subconscious future Feminist. “You are no longer restricted to the roles of women in the past. There are no rules that say you can only be a nurse, teacher, wife or mother. Dream big, who’s to say you can’t be the first female governor in SC?” …”Or President!” I cried out from the third row….far right isle, surprising myself and my pencil as it fell out of my hand and rolled off the desk to the floor. Mrs. Jackson looked back to my corner and laughed. “Or President! That’s what I’m talking about! Dream big!” she cheered. Where did that come from, I wondered….I considered being embarrassed at my outburst but shrugged it off and slipped back into daydream mode…and the haze creeps back into the 91’-92’ school year. A school year also marked by an empowered first grade teacher, who did wild things one 6 year old hardly dares to dream of…like shark fishing. Yes my first grade teacher was an expert of many things…simple math, extreme patience, love and shark fishing. Those of us who stayed relatively out of trouble for the year were treated to a shark meat party in May, right before school let out for the summer. The shark was fried, served with ketchup for dipping and tasted surprisingly like chicken. I was one strike away from the maximum to disqualification from the shark party…most of my strikes came from talking, usually in the form of arguing with Stephen…the class bully who had a sadistic crush on me. I’ve always attracted the bad boys, I think it’s the attitude problem. They can’t get enough, but I’ve certainly had enough of them. And strange how as they subside, so does the attitude. I digress, it’s an unsure and foggy thought but it feels true…I think Mrs. Springer cheated for me. I am almost certain I reached the maximum strikes and should have been disqualified, but maybe she understood my human weakness and saw my desire to be good and so rewarded it. Either way, it was the first and last time I’ve had shark meat but I wouldn’t mind trying it again.
Mrs. Jackson gave each small girl in that classroom a gift on that day, a gift that no one can take away from us even though sometimes we lose it temporarily. Only to find it exactly when the time is right and when the circumstances of life have led us back to it. Each of our lives is a dream that we have dreamt into fruition, current reality and we either choose to accept it or grow it. We can’t always be faulted for our dream’s shortcomings, sometimes events in life that are beyond our control shape this dream, or restrict it…or poison it. But again…it is OUR dream. Your dream. My dream. Once we reach a certain age of responsibility, where we are no longer fragile, impressionable young sprigs…our actions and reactions to the events of our lives become one of our greatest tools in building our current reality. Maybe we can’t always control the daily circumstances around us, trying their absolute best to penetrate our peace and happiness…but we have absolute control over how we choose to respond to the challenges thrown our way. Keeping both feet planted firmly on the ground, digging down with resolute determination to stay in this race. Sometimes the mud creeps up to our ankles…we dig deeper until it hits our knees and sometimes…the worst of times, it’s up to our neck threatening to cut off our air. This is the time when you dig the hardest, believe the most and smile the biggest and brightest because be absolutely certain that you are almost finished with that particular leg of the race. Soon the mud will be washed clean and you’ll be back on top better and brighter than you ever were before. Not to say the neck deep mud won’t come again, it always seems to in one form or another. But the next time it comes, you will be slightly less terrified because you will have that little seed of faith as proven before and as will be proven again and again that there are abundant and eternal blessings and lessons on the other side of your personal obstacle. The race never gets easier, we just get faster and stronger and more and more beautiful.
Thank you Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Springer, Mama….all the beautiful women who have certainly fought their own battles with courage, bravery and grace like the Warrior Goddesses they are. And thank you for the love and sacrifice you bring to the education arena so that seeds of growth, hope and strength continue to be planted into the rich fertile soil of little girls’ beautiful minds. Little girls who will go on to change and grow this world into a more and more hopeful, strong, capable, beautiful and unconditionally loving place…hell bent on prosperity, progress and peace.