High school was a tough gig.
Oh, I was a good enough student, even excelling in some areas. But as an introvert with a challenging family life, it was hard for me to make friends. It still is, though I’ve reconciled that by learning I value depth in my relationships. Having a large number of acquaintances but a smaller inner circle suits my temperament. It’s probably that way for many of us.
One of the classes I optioned in high school was a business course, taught by Miss Ceretzke. From the very first day I admired her–she was younger than some of the other teachers, elegant in her dress, quiet in her manner, and oh so encouraging. Most days, a few of us would gather in her room over lunch because she never seemed to mind us being there. It was a quiet place, away from the Pit where the extroverts hung out. Her classroom was a place to breathe.
As a single young woman, she owned her house. With no understanding of savings accounts, I couldn’t figure out how anyone could possibly manage that at her age. I began to dream new dreams as a result. She fascinated me because she was completely different from anyone else I knew. I studied her so I could be more like her.
That was–dare I say it–about 35 years ago. Yet if anyone asks me about my favorite teachers from high school, Miss C–as we called her sometimes–tops the list. I often felt invisible in my life, except when I was playing my flute or singing. Miss C however, accepted me in the normal everyday quirkiness of our school world. We chatted often, probably with me doing most of the talking. I felt as though she cared about me as a person.
In short, she saw me.
Last year, one of the few friends I still have from highschool arranged for the three of us to meet for lunch. I got off the airplane in Edmonton only to face a winter storm, the kind that drops eight inches of snow on the ground in a very short time, makes for slick highways, and kills any sense of hairstyle one may have started out with in the morning. My friend picked me up and we made the commute to the restaurant where we were planning to meet, not at all sure that Miss Ceretzke would be able to make the trip.
But there she was, sitting demurely in the restaurant’s foyer. I recognized her immediately. Miss Ceretzke has hardly changed at all. She goes by the name Mrs. Dyck now, and she spends her days caring for her parents. She has maintained her sweet and kind disposition, her gentle and elegant spirit, and her interest in former students like me.
It’s such a gift, and one we’ve been nurturing over the past year. She continues to have an impact on my life, probably more than she realizes. We’ve shared some of our struggles–some that have been too similar–and we’ve embraced this rare opportunity to become friends. She is still one of my biggest cheerleaders, encouraging the dreams I have now. We’ve had a few frank discussions, and I appreciate her wisdom and her sage advice. When I was in Edmonton a few weeks ago, my husband and I joined her family for a “simple morning coffee” (it’s clear we have different definitions of that, and my husband was especially thankful that hers includes cinnamon buns and strudel). Her home reflects her charm, and her laughter sparkles with inner peace.
I still want to be like her. The difference now is that I’m quite comfortable being myself these days.
My 500 words/day group had a prompt to write about relationships, and I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank my friend Miss C. Back then, I knew she was special. But now I know why. I am blessed by her every time we communicate, whether it is in person or in e-mail.
I used to be someone who viewed life much like A.A. Milne’s character Eeyore in the Winnie-the-Pooh series. That’s changed now–I’m more likely to seek out the positive than the negative these days. But the truth is, I don’t think I would have learned to seek joy first, had it not been for Miss Ceretzke and a few others like her. At a time when I needed a role model, God kindly placed her in front of my class and started a change in my life.
So, with apologies to Mr. Milne, I’d like to modify Eeyore’s catchphrase and say, “Thanks, Miss C, for noticing me.”
You made all the difference in my world.
Your turn: Who is/was your Miss C?