There you go... A story lovingly written for Aunty Karen and Danie.
I have this tendency to remember the people who have loved me. It's a habit that I suppose is partly caused simply by my "good memory", but a large part of the reason I remember is that these people stick out, because of a belief I picked up as a child. This belief has basically dominated my view of the world ever since.
I have very vague recollections of Mrs. Hill. She was my music teacher during parts of elementary school. I always loved her. She liked me too. My first impulse is to say that she just liked me because I enjoyed music, and I was good at it... but I suppose there had to have been more to it than that. That I can even acknowledge such a possibility is such a huge progression for me... it feels wrong, almost dirty...
Elementary school was not a happy time in my life. I was the youngest in my grade. I was in the same class every year, because I was in the French Immersion program, which was not very big. I was fairly socially isolated before school. None of this played in my favour when I finally arrived in school.
Apparently I hated kindergarten, at first. I ran away once. My mother promptly betrayed me and brought me right back to school. I adjusted, and all was well, until about grade 2. I remember being fairly isolated in kindergarten and grade 1. I didn't talk to anyone unless they spoke to me first. I got to grade 2 with no allies.
I don't know what it was about grade 2, but that was the beginning of the end for me. It started subtly – just little things like coming back to my desk to find that someone had left their garbage on it. I never said a word – just cleaned up the mess. People started to take advantage of me. I didn't say a word. That progressed to outright insults. I still held my tongue. I was ignored, reviled, mocked, and insulted. They talked behind my back, and they talked about me right in front of me. I never said anything to anyone. By the time grade 4 had rolled around, I extremely ashamed of who I was. I knew I deserved everything I went through. To this day, even thinking about elementary school makes me ashamed. I don't like to talk about it, because I (I really want to say know... but I don't think that will go over well) believe that it was my fault, and that there was something wrong with me.
I'm not saying all this for sympathy, or because I have to get it off my chest (believe me, I like it better not thinking about it). I'm just trying to make it abundantly clear just how precious Mrs. Hill was to me.
I used to talk to her outside of class. I don't know if it was during lunch, or if I just stayed after class. Somehow I doubt it, but I don't know.
I vaguely recall hearing her stick up for me once. I can't even begin to explain how that felt for me. Imagine being very, very cold, then having warmth just bubble out of you somewhere deep, deep inside. Sort of like that.
My most vivid memory of her is more personal. I remember exactly where we were standing. We were both in the hallway. There may have been one other person standing there. I have no idea what any of us were doing in the hall, but I was just standing there. I was probably just enjoying being near her. She kissed me on the forehead. I was stunned, at the time, and just stood there and blinked. Looking back, though, I'm so grateful for that moment. Thinking about that moment is the closest I will ever come to understanding that I was not entirely unlovable in elementary school.
Mrs. Hill was my saviour. I would have survived elementary school without her. I probably wouldn't have been any worse off, in the end. What counts, though, is that I will remember those brief moments of respite forever.