My Life's Bouquet
The lessons that blossom and bloom.
by Deborah Jordan Aaron
My Life’s Bouquet
The lessons in life that blossom and bloom by Deborah Jordan Aaron
It’s that time of year again, back to school. The tax free shopping days, avoiding school zones at certain times and getting stuck behind the big yellow bus while en route with its precious cargo. Backpacks and books in tow, they’re the reason for the season…the students. I recognized the precocious little sprouts for I too rode the yellow bus, many moons ago. Although the reflection in a locker mirror would look very different today, I am still and will always be, a student.
My most recent lesson began with a former classmate of mine, Jasmine. A few weeks back we spent the day together, reconnecting after a long absence by shopping, eating and talking about our lives, a ritual among women passed down generation to generation. My friend and I shared quite a few classes together throughout the years and agreed that our favorite teacher was by far, 6th grade class. We then began reciting the poetry she had forged into our brains that year with great enunciation and fortitude, as we were taught to do. Jasmine recently had a chance encounter with our former teacher and we made plans to seek her out for a reunion, hopefully involving food, shopping and poetry. I needed to recommit verse to memory before then as I had flubbed a few lines.
Of course, we have many teachers in life and I honor and cherish my first ones, the ones that raised me, planted the seeds if you will. Mom and Dad. My father, always an amazing and selfless provider, put family first and foremost. His strength, kindness and sense of humor made us feel safe, happy and loved. My mother was a homemaker, tending to their sprouts, my sister and I. Mom was very dedicated to the task, let me tell you. PTA member, volunteer, bake sales, school plays, you name it, she was involved. Very involved. Not to mention the cupcakes she baked for our class every year on our birthdays, actually, I didn’t mind that one. We were in her field of vision 24/7, she knew our every move. The original helicopter mom. Turned out it was another lesson I learned…after the fact, naturally. She was supporting the team that was helping us to grow, to bloom, our educators. My parents worked hard to provide for our family with strength, dignity, integrity and love. This lesson taught me how to respect those that give of themselves for the sake of giving. Of course, that didn’t sink in right away…I mean, come on. Mother, daughter, puberty…that’s a different life lesson. My folks nurtured their little sprouts so that we would flourish.
Early on in my career I was a reservationist at a major airline. All of my parents’ lessons on work ethics, integrity, and respect were the reasons I was able to move up the ranks quickly. I was promoted to the position of Training Instructor. I was a teacher! After 8 weeks of training, my team of potential employees, my students, would either pass their test, begin their exciting new careers and travel the world or fail, be given their walking papers and basically told to hit the road. No pressure, right? Yeah, right. Heather, the supervisor - mentor who believed in my ability to take on this huge responsibility, sat down with me right before my first lecture and said something that I will never forget. “Now Debbie, just remember, not everyone dots their i’s and crosses their t’s “. I had to laugh “Why’d you say that?” to which she replied, “Face it, you’re a perfectionist”. Do what? “No way, Heather, that’s my Dad!!!”. Message received. I was there to teach them where the dots and crosses lined up, so to speak. It was my responsibility to help those who needed me by encouraging their strengths and to strengthen their weaknesses. By focusing on the needs of my students, I was able to gain their trust and in turn, their respect. It was a wonderful and enlightening experience I will always treasure. Thank you both, Heather and Dad, another lesson learned.
Eventually I moved on, fell in love, got married and settled into the next phase of my life. We moved back to my hometown and I got myself a job. Small company but a great group of people to work with. One of my co-workers in particular, Violet, became like family to me. We were a team, we had each other’s backs. Sometimes we’d be laughing to the point that others would come down the hall and wonder what’s was so darn funny? They didn’t always have access to our very unique sense of humor. As the years went by, Violet and I developed a sincere trust and respect for each other, both professionally and personally. We worked damn hard and had great success. As with most jobs, there were times it could be very stressful. Those days when you want to pull your hair out but you’ve still got to get up, show up and do your job. When those times would eventually come around, Violet would force a smile on my face. Her method started with a great big hug, then she’d say that faith in my higher power would always protect me and close with excerpts from her theme song, “Let it go” from the Disney movie “Frozen”. Yeah, THAT song. Violet is well versed on all things Disney and I would call her Mary Poppins to her face. She was annoyingly charming, very much like a little sister. I adore her. You see, she is also an amazing single mother of three, one of which happens be a special needs child. Her very sweet mother, Rose, helps her at home but it’s sometimes difficult due to her health issues. Violet works full time to provide for her family with very little outside help. Oh yes, and she’s a student, very close to receiving her bachelor’s degree through an online college. Try to guess what for. She wants to be a teacher! That’s my girl! It gets better, she is going to teach special needs children. I know without a doubt Violet will be an amazing teacher. Bonus point, I’m convinced her student’s will be very receptive to her musical repertoire. There are times in life when we all face challenges, some more than others. Violet’s consistent display of kindness, generosity and gratitude while facing her own challenges has taught me that I needed to work on my issues. Her blind faith is what got me started on my current journey. Lesson in progress, I’m still doing my homework.
Just a few weeks after our visit, Jasmine called me. With deep sadness and tearful words, she told me our favorite teacher had passed away a few hours before. The tears began to flow. I’ll never get to thank her for the lessons she taught me, never tell her what a gift she gave me, what an influence she was in my life. I wanted to hug her and tell her how important she was to me. I wanted that visit with her and Jasmine so badly, we were going to recite poetry. I planned to include my Mom, volunteer extraordinaire. I asked her to share memories with me. With a slight pause and a soft voice told me she was both professional and personable and when they first met, she felt like she was meeting a friend. Mom went on to say something else I just learned. Trust, she trusted her with us, trusted her with all the children, to always do what was best for them, for me. I knew it. While my teacher was cultivating us, my mom was hovering over the field…like a helicopter.
My favorite teacher’s name is Daisy. I attended grammar school in the 1970’s and had the privilege of being her student in both 4th and 6th grades. As an educator, she was well respected and beloved by both students and peers. I remember a bright, beautiful, brilliant woman, the likes of which I’d never seen before, except maybe on TV. I recall our classrooms having wooden floors and she wore really cool shoes with big clunky heels, being the fashionista that she was. When those heels hit floor it was like hearing a metronome setting the pace for the day, bold and with purpose. There was no tolerance for disrespect in her presence, she ran the show. She taught us the curriculum of the day and for me, a love of all things cultural. Poetry, art, music, dance and of course theater, became a part of lives, our essence. She taught me to overcome any fear of public speaking by including me in her stage productions. I had to give a speech once, all by myself and with her words of encouragement, managed to speak before the entire student body with what I later discovered as confidence. That’s a big deal when your 12 years old. Recently, my mother found a newspaper clipping from our 6th grade graduation assembly. It included girls from our class wearing their finest long dresses, as requested for this most auspicious rite of passage. I felt so pretty and grown up in the dress my mother made me. I believe that might have been part of Daisy’s plans, after all, we were becoming young women, she was grooming young ladies. In the photo some of us are holding poster boards with two words written in bold print. Jasmine, who is standing near me, held a poster that read Tolerance – Patient, mine read Acceptance - Love. Daisy wrote those words for us to understand, live by and share with others. She led us by example, with passion and purpose. There you have it, just some of the many reasons she was my favorite. Thinking back to those school days, taking time to think about what she instilled in me as a child, it suddenly hit me! I know why she was my favorite! Her lessons were about much more than being a better student; they were tools to become a better human being. Life lessons, of which I’ve realized she’s still teaching me. Mrs. Daisy Hamilton Williams will bloom in my heart forever.
We are all teachers; we are all students. My mother and father set a strong foundation for our family built on unconditional love, trust and honor. They taught me how to walk, talk, run and then let my spirit fly while still grounded with family values. They planted the seeds and watched their sprouts grow, nurturing until we bloomed and then tending to us with patience and wisdom. Daisy, Jasmine, Heather and Violet are just some of the many beautiful flowers in my life’s bouquet of lessons. Our loved ones, friends, co-workers and even strangers have something to share, something to receive. The petals of wisdom. When I’m with them, who am I? Am I giving or taking? Shall I blossom or will I wilt? I’m trying to live my truth, to lead by example and hopefully teach positive life lessons while receiving them in the process.
Daisy died on Labor Day, a day dedicated as a national tribute to the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. Teachers must be at the top of the list and her work was a labor of love. On a special note, I would kindly ask anyone having the means, please donate to your local school system. In many cases, teachers have to dig deep into their own pockets to be able to provide for their students, as much as $600.00 a year. They chose an honorable career path and have dedicated themselves to providing an education for our youth. Whether it be supplies, tickets for students’ events or even volunteering your time, it’s worth it. If you don’t have a local school in mind, websites like www.adoptaclassroom.org assist with donations throughout the United States. Look up your alma matter and pay it forward. One more thing, if you know a teacher, send them a daisy with a note that says, thank you. I know an angel that would give you a gold star in heaven for that one…
Note: This article is dedicated in loving memory to Mrs. Daisy Hamilton Williams. The poems Jasmine and I remember fondly speak highly of her character. “The World Is Mine” by Joy Lovelet Crawford, “I Saw God Wash the World Last Night” by Dr. W. L. Stidger and “Trees” by Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, speak of faith, beauty, compassion and gratitude, qualities that help define the attributes of our beloved teacher. We are grateful for our time spent with you, dear Daisy.