Mrs. Huddleston of Greenwood School
by, December 30th, 2016 at 08:40 PM (109 Views)
Forever ago, I posted my first blog (The Eyes of a Stranger), and planned on posting more but...didn't get around to it! So, here's another piece of flash-fiction, Mrs. Huddleston of Greenwood School. Enjoy! I would love your comments or critique!
“All the teachers at Greenwood School are exactly the same.” My best friend Leslie told me on my first day of high school. Since she had been going to the school longer than I had, I took her word for it. But I soon discovered by depressing evidence that Leslie was dismally correct in her statement.
Cool, calculated, infinitely competent and modern…and boring. Men and women in their early thirties or shading into their forties. Or even a few in their late forties trying unsuccessfully to look thirty again. People who didn’t give a rap about the subjects they taught or the students they taught them to, who were just as eager for the weekends as we were. They were all the same, until I met Mrs. Huddleston.
Mrs. Huddleston taught history, which was my last class of the day and by then I was feeling tired and bored and I wanted to be home.
All I ever knew of Mrs. Huddleston’s past life was what I heard from a classmate: she had married her childhood sweetheart when she was seventeen, he and their infant son had died in a car crash two years later. Widowed at age nineteen, Mrs. Huddleston had never remarried. She had somehow fought her way though college, and had been teaching school since she was twenty-five. Now she must have been at least seventy, but this was hard to remember because she acted younger than most of us did. It was easy to overlook her wrinkles when you looked into the birdlike eyes, and the white hair was completely eclipsed by her vivacious personality. She was excitable and energetic, and laughed easily. She was clumsy and forgetful and plain. She was easily distracted and would lose her thoughts mid-sentence or sometimes in the middle of the word. But there was never a doubt in my mind or in the minds of my fellow students that she loved her subject.
She could get lost in the pages of a history book the way some people loose themselves in a book or get sucked into an electronic device. When she read history she sometimes laughed or cried or clapped her hands. When she spoke, her homely face glowed with the enthusiasm of her inner knowledge that she was so eager to impart to us all. And somehow, with the knowledge she gave to us she managed to give an infusion of her love. It was not just a love for her subject, but a love for the whole race of humans; and in some strange way, she gave it to all of us. Mrs. Huddleston just cared about people. As often as I saw her laugh or cry or clap her hands over a battle in a history book, I saw her laugh or cry or clap her hands over the victories that were being won in her classroom by the students who were her soldiers.
All that was over nearly a decade ago. Today I no longer live in Greenwood, and I seldom hear anything to make me remember the little town of my childhood. But this morning I received an envelope in the mail that for a time made me forget my rushed schedule and transported me back in time. There was no letter of explanation in the envelope, there was no return address. It was a single newspaper clipping that I have never been able to trace.
In the article it mentioned Greenwood High School, and as I continued to read, a feeling of sadness and loss crept over me. Loss for myself, and loss for the tiny world of Greenwood School. The high school was happy to introduce their new history teacher, Mr. Bell. The article spoke warmly of Bell’s credentials, and mentioned in passing, barely giving it space or thought that the last teacher of history had been dismissed based on complaints offered by other teachers that accused her of being “old fashioned and incompetent”.
I sat there a long time; not reading the article, merely thinking. Now Leslie could truly say, “All the teachers at Greenwood School are exactly the same.”
I imagined Mr. Bell in the history classroom: efficient, using the newest methods. Cool, calculated, infinitely competent and modern…and boring.
I looked at my watch. If I didn’t hurry, I would be late getting to my college where I was to deliver my first lecture on history. I had been building up to this moment all my life, yet strangely I had never been sure I was ready for it. Now, I knew.