Monday, September 15, 2014

Letter in the mail ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I got a letter in the mail from the Mountain Eagle today. Normally, they send my check each month in a regular envelope, but this one was larger. It looked a little suspicious to me.

My eyebrows furrowed. Scrunching up my bottom lip involuntarily, I flipped the envelope front to back. Cautiously I shook it a little, and then held it up to the light to see if I could see anything pink in there.

I’m paranoid that the bossman will one day realize I’m a hack who has problems spelling his
own name correctly. I can almost hear him rail, “We’ve wasted enough ink on this hillbilly.” Sometimes my imagination spanks me like a naughty child.

To my relief a check was there when I tore open the envelop, and luckily there was no pink slip. I shook it twice to make sure. The envelope did contain a letter to the editor, from a nursing home in Florence.

I frequently get emails from readers or Facebook messages, but it’s not often that people take the time to write a note by hand and send it through the mail.

I was flattered by the kind words, but it was the signature that put a lump in my throat. It was from Mrs. Dorothy Ellison, my senior homeroom teacher in 1968. I haven’t seen her in years.

She lives in a senior living home in north Alabama and has the newspaper mailed to her there. It seems she reads my column each week, and that I often make her smile. Reading her words made me smile too.

Closing my eyes, I could picture her standing posture perfect in front of the class writing instructions on the blackboard, the chalk softly squawking. She had a lilting voice, and I never heard her raise it.

Mrs. Ellison was the kind and caring teacher that everyone who’s ever attended high school wished for. Those lucky enough to have one like her, will never forget them.

She was a brilliant teacher who had a knack for making the material understandable. One former student said she made science fun. She intuitively knew that fun was an essential ingredient in the learning equation.

Another student said, “She was a teacher that made a difference in my life.” That says a great deal in my book.

I can honestly say I’ve had some great teachers in my life.

In looking back, my path to becoming a writer has been a long a squirrelly one. Like everyone else trying to find their way, I’ve been discouraged at times. But it seems whenever I’m feeling down, a teacher will appear and steer me in the right direction.

I’ve invested a lot of time these last few months studying the craft of writing. The authors, some long dead, are teaching me a great deal.

Most say never use big words when small ones will do the job. That’s fortunate for me, because I don’t know a lot of big words. But they also say using short sentences, and short paragraphs is better than long ones. My style is evolving.

I would not be where I am today without teachers.

So thank you, Mrs. Ellison, and all the other teachers who have helped me along the way.


  1. What a lovely tribute to your teachers Rick ;-)

    3 of mine stand out Mrs. Heighton, grade 6. Mrs. Quinlinn, grade 10 and Mrs. Healy, grade 11... Great teachers ♡

  2. What a great tribute to your teachers! I'm sure Mrs. Ellison will long appreciate your kind words.

  3. What a great post to a wonderful teacher! How wonderful that she reads your column each week.

  4. Mrs. Ellison was a true teacher and she obviously cared a lot about her students. Too bad there aren't more like her to make such a difference in her student's lives.

    So nice of you to pay her tribute like this.

  5. I came across my old yearbook the other day as well and boy... it brought back memories.
    I didn't like my high school but now looking back,
    I can smile at the old faces looking back at me.
    How wonderful you must feel to know this teacher still remembers you and cares enough to write.

  6. I had to go to college to find the excellent teachers. High school didn't do it for me. It's so nice that you received the letter. She will be thrilled that you remember her. You should go visit her, and don't email me about how I'm ridin' yer a**.


  7. Anonymous11:46 PM

    This was a very moving post. I agree with Janie--go visit her!!

  8. Frame able. There is nothing like a breath of air from the past, especially when it is by mail, That makes it a Keeper, the recorded memories. Nice to have a compliment from someone you truly respect. Also to know they are still around... NICE


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