March 8th was International Women’s Day. In keeping with the tradition of previous years, I’m going to spotlight several women who have played important roles in my life.
March is women’s history month and these women all have their own unique history, which is part of my own unique history.
You can read part ONE here.
Teachers in school and out of school:
Linda W: I met Linda when I was 14. She is the mother of Sarah, the first new friend I met in high school. Linda was an English and Art teacher at our school but I never had the pleasure of being in her class. But I had the pleasure of knowing her and interacting with her as I spent a lot of time with Sarah and at Sarah’s house during my high school years. I would marvel at her beautifully decorated home (like a museum, but a comfortable museum) and she would always tell me about where certain photos and decorations came from. Of course, everything had a story. After Sarah went away to Unversity and then moved again to the West Coast, I continued to call Linda for visits and to ask questions and advice. She may not have taught me in school, but she is a great teacher in life.
Alex K.W.: My Grade 11 English teacher. I liked English class before her, but she made me LOVE it. She was hilarious and charming and smart. All the students loved her but she wasn’t a pushover, she didn’t take crap from anybody. One day, as we were studying Shakespeare, I remember thinking, “I’m actually enjoying this.” Mrs K.W. made Shakespeare fun and easy to understand!
Iris B: Iris was my Spanish teacher in grade 10 and 11. She was a delightfully tiny and adorable woman fluent in both French and Spanish (and English) and she always had a smile on her face. I think most of the students loved her (I never heard anyone say otherwise) and she was one of my favourites. Even when I passed out during my ORAL Spanish exam (because of illness, not nerves), she was understanding and sympathetic. Don’t worry I still passed the exam and the class. Every few years, I see her at a social event because she is good friends with Linda (mentioned above). She always looks the same and she always remembers me.
Danalyn M: Danalyn is a wonderfully strong woman with a booming voice, a roaring laugh and a hilarious sense of humour. She is an amazing woman who has learned and accomplished so much in her life. She’s held many different jobs from an English teacher to a lawyer to a judge and finally, a Justice of the Peace. She toiled and prevailed in male dominated fields (mechanics) and is a perfect example of a strong and capable feminist. Danalyn became friends with my mother when they were in high school, then they later roomed together in University. Danalyn is the mother of Devon, who I wrote about here.
Elementary school and beyond:
Kristina: She joined our class in grade 6 and we became friends the next year. We had a rough start to our relationship (mentioned here), but thankfully we worked that out because what has followed has been two decades of friendship. Our families and politics seem to be quite different but that never seemed to stop us from hanging out. She is extremely loyal and always offers help to those in need. She has even offered to babysit my boys, but I really really really don’t want to put her through that. In Grade 8, Kristina and I were very close. We got in trouble for laughing and talking in class, but the teacher never seemed to clue in and separate our desks. Kristina introduced me to the world of grungy music like Nirvana and Hole.
Rochelle: I met her in kindergarten and thought she was so cool and sophisticated. I think it’s because she was a foot taller than me, and stayed that way until we graduated Grade 8. I’m sure she is still taller than me. We were never really close friends but we were always friendly. In Grade 7, my friend Erin and I hung out a lot with Rochelle because we would all three go to my house for lunch break. We had lots of laughs and at one time, I considered Rochelle to be a great source of fun and hilarity in elementary school.
Kristin: A grade older than me, Kristin was in my class every second year because almost all our elementary classes were split grades. Kristin and I became very close in my Grade 7 and her Grade 8 year. We passed notes back and forth in class all the time and giggled uncontrollably when we should have been doing school work. I was so drawn to Kristin because of her amazing drawing and writing talent. I wanted that talent to rub off on me! I was also very intrigued by her Anne of Green Gables hair colour. The only other person I knew with hair like that was my mom. Kristin was captivating.
Gayle: A grade older than me, and good friends with Kristin. Her mom was friends with my mom and I occasionally saw her outside of school. I found Gayle to be ethereal. She was graceful and free-spirited, and artistic, and kind. I had a slight case of hero-worship and thankfully, she was very patient with me.
Ann Ruppenstein: A grade younger than me, Ann was in my class every second year. She was very good friends with Kristina and we hung out quite a bit. For reasons unbenknownst to me, Ann always called me Libby. I thought it was cute and illustrated Ann’s eccentricities. She was always so much more “fun” and outgoing than I was and sometimes I considered it an honour that she wanted to be my friend.
Amanda: We met in kindergarten and were close friends up until grade 8. We lived in the same neighbourhood and had a similar family life. I think Amanda really admired me when we were children. She wanted to do what I was doing in class and she even got her hair cut to look like mine. She was eternally supportive and loyal and extremely generous. Once graduated from Grade 8, we lost touch but have run into each other several times over the years. While similar, Amanda did have a rougher childhood than I did and she had several set-backs in her teens and early twenties. She deserves peace and stability and I hope she has found it.
Allison: We met when her family moved down the street from us. For a time, I would have considered her my best friend, at least outside of school. We were in different classes but since she was one of my mom’s regular babysitting charges – for years – we were always together. It was so nice to have a friend just down the street all those years. It’s a wonderful right of passage for a child when he or she gets to walk down the street alone to see a friend. After Allison moved to a different neighbourhood and school, our friendship ended, but the memories of having a friend down the street are wonderful.
Rachael B: We met when her mother found my mother to be an after school babysitter. Rachael, Allison, and I had a lot of fun together (and some not so fun experiences, mentioned here). Rachael eventually moved to a new neighbourhood, but stayed in the same school. She was a grade younger and in my class every second year. We maintained a friendly relationship until different high schools separated us. She was and still is a great person.
Stephanie P: We met in kindergarten and were friends for a couple years. She changed schools and I didn’t see her again until grade 9. We weren’t friends then and I confess to thinking she was flighty, materialistic, and snobby. The next year, Stephanie started hanging out with my friends and I, and I discovered how wrong I was about my first impression. She was kind, silly, intelligent, independent, and a great friend. We had many classes together and over the years, I’ve loved having silly and serious discussions: her and I have the same views on just about everything and I can talk to her about absolutely anything in the world: our families, our politics, our faiths, our dreams, etc.
Stay tuned for part six tomorrow.