Buttered Toast Plus

April 4, 2010

I was one of the lucky ones who knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Easy. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. (I wanted to be a nurse when I was very young, because of the Cherry Ames nurse books that I got for birthday presents. Well, …either a nurse, a sleuth — yes, I got a lot of Nancy Drews also — or at least a girl with a pony tail like Sky King’s Penny! But the nurse dream ended when I took high school chemistry, and I guess the others just sort of went away. I had decided: the drama of teaching the very young was the job for me!

So there I was a few years later, in Richmond, VA, in the innner city section of Southside, student teaching in Mrs. Vashti Dawson’s first grade class.

I had always known it would go well. What was there about it not to go well? I was wonderful; they would love me, and they would know immediately how much I loved them. I was an excellent student, prepared fully to fill their young minds with much reading expertise, and so of course they would soak in every creative integrated curriculum idea that I had come up with! And so I had been chomping at the bit to begin!

Armed therefore with my beautiful learning centers, lovely bulletin boards, a file box full of ideas, and my indomitable spirit, I was ready to tackle and win these unfortunate children over!

Oh. My. How do I describe how wrong I was? Let me count the ways. I hadn’t had a clue. They didn’t listen to me. They tore up my lovely teaching materials. They threw them around the room. They laughed at me. They hit each other. And pushed. And tripped. And did everything they were big enough to do. They were totally out of control. And they had no idea on earth who or what I was: (nor did I at that point) — certainly not a teacher! It was horrible. I came close to quitting. I begged Mrs. Vashti Dawson never to leave me alone. (She was a wonderful teacher, by the way, and everything I wanted to be: gentle, kind, and competent, and she had those little hellions controlled with her little finger. I didn’t know how she did it).

Needless to say, I was a wreck both in and out of that classroom. It was the longest 2 months of my life. But there was one absolutely perfect thing about Richmond, Virginia during that 2 month period. And that was Mrs. Cobb. She was the mother of one of my college roommates, and I lived at her house during my stay there.

Mrs. Cobb loved me when the children didn’t. She listened to me. She gave me kleenexes when I cried. She took me to a belly dance class. She gave me kibbi at the Lebanese Community Center where her friends hung out. And she buttered my toast. Plus she fixed me oatmeal, even though I already had my buttered toast!

Two carbs at the same meal. It was a picture of plenty. And it was so free, and so over the top that I wanted to cry at breakfast, before I’d even gone to school! It stopped me in my tracks.

I didn’t know why she did it: why would a person butter another’s toast, when that is something that is known universally as something that you do yourself? And why did she give me two starchy foods at the same meal? (We didn’t refer to them as carbs then, but rather as starches.) It completely undid me. It was so unexpected. So warm and loving. And so generous. Definitely it was one of the reasons why I could keep going into that first grade classroom each day.

I’ve never forgotten that buttered toast and oatmeal. When people stay at Simply Bed & Bread, I hope they see hints of the extravagance of Mrs. Cobb’s breakfasts for me.

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