Monday, January 25, 2010

Back to Where it All Began

For most people, seventh-grade English is inconsequential, a stepping stone filled with worksheets and grammar books and simple themes in classic stories. Most people don't walk into seventh-grade English looking for a spouse. Of course, I didn't either, but I got one. I totally won the seventh-grade English grand prize lottery.

I can still picture Mrs. White's classroom. It was on the second floor of the school, blue carpet, green chalkboards in the front, and a row of windows in the back. Her neat cursive writing displayed the latest lesson in chalk. I joined the class the first day of the second quarter of school. In fact, my whole schedule had been revamped and it felt like the first day of school all over again, except that I was months late and everybody else already knew what was going on. Oh, I was nervous, as evidenced by the seventeen changes of clothes that morning.

I was shown my seat near the front of the room, right behind a boy named Ryan. And even though seventh-grade boys and girls don't generally mingle comfortably on the first day of the second quarter of seventh grade (that generally happens on the last day of the fourth quarter), something clicked. We began talking, which, as it turns out, is one of the things we do best. We were talking prodigies, ready for the Talking Olympics, and born for marathon conversations.

By the second day of class, Mrs. White moved me across the room. Who could blame her? (Although, if you're going to talk excessively, shouldn't it be in English class?)

Fast-forward 20 years.

Ryan and I were working one day at our respective laptops when he said, "You're never going to believe this." He went on to read an email from Mrs. White! As luck and Google would have it, she'd tracked him down after finding out that he'd grown up and tackled a PhD and become a professor. I'm guessing that aside from immediate family, nobody is more tickled with that kind of accomplishment than your seventh-grade english teacher.

Mrs. White also mentioned that she would be in Washington, D.C., for a conference and asked if we'd be interested in meeting for dinner. Our answer: Oh, yes!

It was the kind of moment you don't expect to have in life, unless you're someone like Oprah who coordinates these emotional meetings every other day. (We did it without Oprah!) We'd done all the correspondence by email, which is why, when I heard Mrs. White's voice on the phone Saturday afternoon to touch base and confirm, I let out a giggle. The sound of her voice took me back immediately to my seat in the corner of her classroom. I almost expected her to ask me if I had my homework to turn in.

We met on a busy D.C. street, exchanged hugs, introduced our children and her husband, and waited for a table. We then enjoyed a few hours together, reminiscing and catching up. She looked older, but not 20 years older. I'm sure it was Ryan and me who had changed the most. But, then so much seemed the same. She still had the same enthusiasm for education; it's practically infectious. And Ryan and I still have the same knack for wanting to sit by each other.


Of course, it couldn't go without pointing out that Christian, our son, is approximately the same age that we were when it all began. He didn't seem as freaked out and amused by it as we all were, staring at his young face and realizing the sheer unlikelihood of our story. I mean, really! What are the odds?!

We parted ways again on the street, exchanging hugs, and promising to keep in touch. I don't need Oprah to tell me--this was a night to remember forever.

I've mentioned before that much of middle school and high school was hellishly terrible and terribly hellish. It was so nice to revisit and relish in a good memory. It was nice to be reminded that the worst of times was also the best of times, that winning the seventh-grade English class grand prize lottery may have been accompanied by some pretty steep taxes, but at the end of the day, I was still the big winner.

23 comments:

Soul-Fusion said...

Congratulations on the win!
And it is a good thing you have sons instead of daughters. Daughters might resent you for your fairy tale love story. Sons will likely shrug their shoulders and go their own way.

Kristina P. said...

What a cool story! I don't really remember any of my teachers. I don't have the greatest long term memory.

jennie w. said...

So when I tell my 7th and 8th grade kids to just survive middle school because nothing good every happens there, then I would be wrong.

Once every thousand years there is something magical like Tiffany and Ryan.

But I'm guessing that's not the kind of magical they're hoping for.

katie said...
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Becky said...

I'm so glad you blogged about this! I was so excited when Erik told me about it. Very cool!

Jesse C said...

That made my day. Thanks for sharing.

Leslie said...

You are so cool! I'm glad that I know you both!

aimee said...

I love your story. I love that you met up with your teacher - that same teacher from the class where it all began.

There is something wonderful about seeing people who knew you when you were just so small.

Miranda said...

Oh my goodness! Cutest story ever!

Kami said...

I love how you and Ryan have such a history together. What a great teacher she is!

my favorite line: as luck and google would have it. :)

Emily said...

That's so awesome! Great teachers are invaluable, especially when you're that age. (Where'd you go to dinner, by the way? It looks so familiar!)

littlegypsy. said...

What a great story! I teach 7th grade English. I hope I hear success stories like that from my students someday!

Anneliese said...

wow. that is a great story! i'm so happy that you still like to sit by each other :)

soveryvicki said...

Loved this post! Happiness!

Christy said...

WOW, such a neat story. I think it's so great that you have a photo to prove it. Really really cool!

Jodi said...

My 7th grade son thinks he's met his future spouse in English as well. The problem? It's his teacher.

I agree . . . she's hot, but no daughter-in-laws my age please. Eeeew.

Angie said...

That's really great. What are the odds of any of it, meeting in junior high, your teacher finding you again after all these years! Very cool.

Omgirl said...

I also was changed forever by my 7th grade English class. I didn't meet my husband there, but I did meet the guy I would be hopelessly in love with for the next 7 years. It's also where my love of writing began when Mrs. Siegel taught us the term "unrequitted love" and admitted that I understood indirect objects better than she did.

How cool for you to be able to see the lady that brought you two together!

Dede said...

That's awesome! Seriously. I'm pretty sure I don't remember most of my teacher's names.

Kellybee said...

I loved this Tiff! It's so great that she tracked you guys down! My memory of Mrs. White was when she caught me counterfeiting parent permission notes for some of the other kids so that they could ride the bus home with their friends. What can I say? My handwriting was very good and I was great at forging signatures. Not my proudest moment:(

Travelin'Oma said...

You are a success story on many levels. I'll bet she was thrilled to see how you both turned out. Great post!

MiaKatia said...

You did win the lottery and so did Ryan. I bet the both of you make your 7th grade English teacher very proud.

Mindi said...

so funny that 7th grade english would play such a big part in many of our lives--it's where i met the teacher who would encourage me to write. mr. tadlock was his name and you can bet that right after i get done here with your blog i just might google him.

i love any stories about you and ryan--you two were truly made for each other.

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