When I opened this page up I had a completely different post I had planned on writing. Funny how the mind can wander and take you someplace you did not expect but you just possibly needed to go.
I remember my senior year, ’90-’91, as one that was all over the map. There was a lot of drama along with a lot of good times, just like most peoples senior years. But that year I was blessed with three amazing teachers that I still think about to this day, one of them was my English teacher named Ms. Ann Habeeb. She was passionate about literature. She made us look at it and turn it around and realize it was more than just words on a page, that it was an experience to be lived. I was always an ravenous reader who devouring anything I could find, but she made slow down and appreciate it. I learned the language of the words above and beyond the feelings they could invoke.
I had one of those moments which, years later, could only be called a turning point in her class. We had been assigned to write a story, I can’t remember the guidelines, but it was only to be about a page or so. I wrote about a deserted town and a young boy who was the only one with the power to defeat the rolling evil that was coming down the shadows of Main Street. I wrote it, turned it in and about forgot it. The next day, or maybe a few days later, Ms. Habeeb was passing the assignments back out to the class, walking up and down the rows of desks as she did. She matched the story with the writer as she handed them back, sometimes with a comment, sometimes not. When she came to me she stopped and looked down at me.
“I am so mad at you.”
I panicked. At that time, there could have been any number of things I had done that could get a teacher mad. I was not a total hoodlum, but I certainly was no angel.
“Huh? What? What’d I do?” I’m sure my actual reply was no even near as eloquent as that.
“You never told me you could write.” With that, she handed me back my story so I could see the grade and review any notes before she gathered them up again. I do not remember anything specific other than an overall sense of satisfaction and no small amount of embarrassment.
She was the first person who ever gave me any encouragement in regards to my writing.
I remember Ms. Habeeb told us she kept everything her students wrote; she said you never knew who was going to end up a best selling author. She would tell us occasionally past students wouldcontact her to review and edit their novels, which she usually did. Right then and there I decided that if I ever wrote a novel, I was going to ask her to edit it for me.
While we live in a different town, my wife works at our old high school in the music department. No, we weren’t high school sweethearts, we met years afterward in another town while she was in college. We were in a book store this past summer and ran into a new English teacher who was working Vicksburg High. She asked if my wife had heard that Ms. Habeeb was retiring and not returning for the new school year? She had not and personally my stomach dropped. The idea of kids missing out on such an amazing teacher was sad. I still remember much of that class, including being amazed as it rained the day we were scheduled to start reading the Three Witches scene in MacBeth. She had predicted it would; it did every year when her class read it. I told the new teacher to make sure next time she spoke with Ms. Habeeb to let her know that an old student was very sad to hear that she was retiring, and how much the class meant to me. I know she won’t remember me, but I felt I needed to say a little something to let her know that she made a difference in my life.
I wonder to this day if she really kept everything we wrote and if there is any chance of that old story I penned has survived. I assume not, but it is a nice little dream to think that somewhere in a retired English teacher’s files is a story that I wrote so, so long ago that made her mad at me, but in a good way.
Quite often of late I have been on the verge of giving up on my writing. I tell myself I should shove my unfinished works in a drawer and just accept that I am an office drone and always will be an office drone. Office drones don’t write. I am not the author of my story, but a bit player in someone other author’s story, assigned to be in the background; a character only described to boost word count.
Then I sometimes remember Ms. Habee looking down and saying to me, “I’m so mad at you.”
So I suck it up, put on my big boy pants, and keep writing.