I wish I had a long roll of butcher paper that unfurled down the length of a classroom. I wish I had an arsenal of thick-tipped sharpies and a pocketful of beautiful penmanship. Because that is how this deserves to be written: in the finest cursive or amen printing, large enough for even the students in the back row to see, cascading down every classroom in every city.
You were an angel amidst us,
too tall for the habit but cloaked perfectly inside a classroom, whose walls you pushed against
with your Frost and cummings and later, oh–thank you for later too, teaching me Mary Oliver, long past the time we shared 5th grade together.
You scrawled out verses on butcher paper that hung like fuchsia from the walls, and I, a hummingbird to those words, drinking of their nectar and grateful for your stocking the feeder of my mind.
You watched from your perch, even when I thought your eyes were elsewhere:
A note on my desk, no larger than a bookmark, that amen printing and that hallelujah spirit: Linsey, Dearest, Chin up little one, you are loved more than you will ever know. I am your own, Mrs. Nick
No need to peer into your blue eyes to know that it was true; you were not a teller of tales.
What choice did I have? Not quite your stature and not nearly your heart, but I followed the word trail you ignited in my bones.
Not nearly your grace, but I jump on tables and read black marks on white pages and sing the glory of those characters, hoping that one heart will become infected. I teach because of you.
hoping that one line will sing–I write because of you.
hoping that one battered heart will be buttressed–I send notes and notes and notes because of you.
hoping that one stanza strikes a chord–I read Rilke and Rumi and Whyte because of you.
You were the one, Mrs. Nick,
who in so many ways, illustrated the beauty of the world and the necessity of compassion and the life in the jumble of words.
These tears–the huge wet drops dripping down my cheeks–I can’t imagine that they are anything but gratitude.
And perhaps sorrow, that there was only 5th grade and only one you and perhaps most, so very little time.
Chin up, you are loved more than you will ever know.
I am your own.