I know, I know, I wasn’t going to post again until then, but something happened yesterday that I just want to jot down quickly before I forget.
I travelled in the morning, arrived in KY in the early afternoon, and took a nap. After my nap, I was the only one home for some reason, and the phone rang. Figuring it was for Dad or Marvis, I didn’t answer it, but I was close enough to the answering machine that I heard someone start to leave a message: “This is Mrs. Chamberlain. Rachel, your dad just told me your book is coming out soon, and I wanted to tell you…”
Mrs. Chamberlain. My sixth grade teacher. I lunged for the phone.
It turned out she had, indeed, run into Dad out at the arboretum, and he’d told her I was passing through to pick up my son on the way back from New York. “I found the listing for your book on Amazon,” she said, “and then I just really wanted to hear your voice.”
It was so nice to talk to her. She told me how much she always enjoyed my enthusiasm and imagination, and I told her (and almost made her cry, she said) that she was the very first teacher who noticed I was good at and enjoyed creative writing, and that she had encouraged me in that direction more than anyone else.
And then I realized that while I was in New York, I’d only told half a story.
Because someone (was it the photographer?) had asked me how I got started writing. And I told him that when I was eleven (6th grade) a boy in my class had boasted that he was writing a novel, and I’d thought to myself, Jonathan’s writing? How dare he! That’s MY thing! I competitively started writing a novel of my own, a straight-up LotR knock-off, longhand in spiral notebooks.
But here’s the part of the story I didn’t tell, because I hadn’t realized the truth of it: Mrs. Chamberlain was the reason writing was my thing, before I got all competitive with that boy. She had been so encouraging that year that I had taken it deeply to heart. I WAS a writer, down to my toes. She told me so, and I believed her. I gained an identity in sixth grade.
So there you go. Teachers really do shape lives. I feel so very fortunate that I got to thank her yesterday.