Here is Exactly How it Is…That “Student Getting Into Your Heart” Thing

Somewhere over the Arkansas-Louisiana border at 40,000 feet I was startled out of my daydreaming state by an announcement coming over the cabin microphone: “Kelly from Edmond? Would you please turn on your call light?”

“Cripes,” I thought to myself.  Then I said it aloud. “Cripes!  I probably dropped my wallet or something.”  I was talking half to myself and half to an OSU student I had met who had lots of questions about flying.  She was sitting across the aisle from me grinning.  “Um…” I started.  Then I made eye contact with the flight attendant who was standing in the first class section and waved weakly.  “Here I am…”  My voice trailed off.  I felt like a child.

The flight attendant saw me, smiled way bigger than should have fit a wallet-losing scenario, and began making her way down the aisle.  When she reached me, she held out her hand and offered me a piece of paper that looked like airline-logo-stuff.  “Here you go,” she said.  “The people in seats one and two sent these to you as their compliments.”

I turned the paper over.  Printed on the back were two coupons, good for a snack or a drink.  I glanced up at her, “Um. Well, thanks!  Can I buy a ‘hug coupon’ from you and send it their way??”  She smiled and returned to the front.

The gift was from the parents of a former drama student of mine I taught approximately 18 years ago.  However, he wasn’t just any student.  This was one of those students who wrestled his way into my heart no matter how hard I tried to keep the door shut. He was brilliant, mischievous (okay, he was a real brat), in trouble constantly, and to this day I still hear from him about once a year. As I fidgeted with the coupons, my thoughts drifted backward…

I allowed him to borrow my car once because his was blocked in and I needed someone to pick up pizza for our set construction day.  He did.  He wanted to do something nice for me.  So, he drove my car five miles further than I expected, filled up my gas tank with his father’s credit card, then drove away with the gas line and pump still attached to my car.  This was before they had “break-away” hoses, so he pulled the entire pump over, and my insurance paid out a $6800 settlement six months later.  A week after that, the gas station closed it’s doors.  Go figure.

This same kid attended at least three of my children’s birthday parties, made a brief showing at my daughter’s wedding, came by for my younger daughter’s high school graduation party, and dressed up as a gumball machine for one particular party when they were younger.  He tied a 55 gallon translucent garbage bag around his knees, filled it with all colors of inflated balloons, then taped the top around his neck. Oh, and two days after my hysterectomy I was lying on my couch at home recovering when he and his new bride stopped their “get away limo,” ran into my house, and gave me a hug in their wedding clothes before leaving for their honeymoon.

This is the same kid that stole the 6-foot blue hippo from a car wash on Broadway in Edmond, pulled the main power breaker during a packed high school basketball game, super-glued quarters to the high school ceiling, ran around every day for one year with an extra large can of hairspray in his back pocket, and used to hide condoms in random places in my desk at school…and in my purse…and in my books in my classroom…

He is the kid who got extremely serious one day before he graduated and said, “Mrs. Roberts, when you’re 80 and I’m 65, can we please meet on a bench in a park somewhere and talk all day long about how our lives turned out?”

This is the same kid that, on an Arts Club trip to Eureka Springs decided to invent some social commentary on how incredibly “apparent” men’s genitalia are in ballet leotards by donning his sister’s black body suit and over-stuffing the crotch area with an entire roll of toilet paper.  The parent chaperones and I heard a commotion around the indoor pool as other students spied him first, speeding down the hall toward us doing running split leaps over and over as he got closer and closer.  Oh, but that bulge was massive.  As we struggled with our shock and awe, he put an exclamation point on his dance by leaping into the pool.  As his body sunk to the bottom, bubbles started boiling up…then toilet paper…massive quantities of toilet paper, designed to break apart in water, and they were coming up out of the pool like a geyser.  When the student finally came up for air, he looked around to see the top of the pool completely covered in little bits of paper that was quickly getting sucked into the pump.  Yes, the pool filter got clogged.  Yes, we had to pay to have it repaired.

It was two weeks after the swimming pool issue that I found myself in a McDonald’s down the road from the school, leaning forward, POINTING my finger at this student’s parents and saying something like, “YOUR SON….!”  I vividly remember what happened next.  His father, who was 52 at the time and a perfect gentleman, reached over the table, put his hand over my finger, and lowered my hand downward.  Then he said, “I’m not sure pointing will change the boy’s behavior, Kelly.”

These were the parents that sent me the drink coupons.  I later caught up with them after we exited the plane.  They now have 10 grandchildren, they were headed to Palm Beach to celebrate her birthday, and gave me at least three or four hugs.  It was a delightful encounter.

And yes, I can almost guarantee I’ll meet that kid in the park when I’m 80.  But I’d better bring lunch…and maybe dinner.  If we’re going to catch up, we’ll need sustenance.

29 responses to “Here is Exactly How it Is…That “Student Getting Into Your Heart” Thing

    • Sweet Kathy – I’m so sorry, for some reason your comment was in my spam folder. Crazy folder…it should know better – you are NO spam! Bless you for stopping by, and thanks!

  1. Better than fiction! You have the patience of Job. None of my K-4th graders EVER got themselves into THAT much mischief. WHen I was a teen, some of my friends thought it would be funny to pick up and turn my mom’s VW around so that it was parked, nose to tail, between two huge pine trees, the width of the car. I think my mom just laughed and told them to turn it back around. I know we left the skating rink that night only a little later than usual. Amazing how much teen-age boys can think up and actually do.

    • Dear TCHistoryGal – - Wow, I’ve not yet known that spam wasn’t BRILLIANT!? I found four comments from real live human beings just sitting in that folder. I replied on Paula’s blog to you, but just want you to know that you are true and correct. Limitless, they are, on thinking up mischief!!

  2. Awesome story! My parents’ house was the one where all the stray neighborhood boys came and just stayed. This sounds so much like some of their adventures. I recall gift wrapping a jeep in the front lawn, stopping them from urinating in a cranky neighbors water softener, catching them giving shots of beer to pets. I have grown up as the big sister to a dozen boys like this – thanks for the walk down memory lane:)

    • Artsifrtsy: Should you elaborate more on those antics, I most certainly would love to read about them! I believe, as does my grandmother, that complete acceptance and loyalty during a child’s adolescent years, is essential for – well, basically – passing that environment on to the next generation of Jeep-wrappers!

      • I believe that you and your grandmother are correct – they have all gone one to be great dads. LOL – My mom loved all those boys like her own and I still think of all of them as brothers. One kid, Paul, used to sneak up on her while she was washing dished – he would hide in her rose bushes and pop up when she looked out the window – She never seemed to think he would try it again and he always did and she almost lost it every time – he made her crazy, but he ate supper with us most evenings. I still see Paul at my brother’s place when I go home for the holidays. My mom wasn’t a teacher – she was just a mom, but she was pretty terrific at that.

  3. I love this post – I just emailed it to my husband who is a high school English/Performing Arts teacher. He has classes filled with students like the one mentioned here, and he loves them all. Well, maybe not all – one or two really test his patience. But each year he puts on a Shakespeare play with these students, and this is the one class they never cut. Great teachers really make a difference in a person’s life. And your story certainly demonstrates that.

    • Darlene: I love that your husband has a ritual his students can count on and passes along each year. That’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. There is something about drama – it levels the gender playing field in a world of high school uncertainty, it allows for students to have down time together so they get to know each other on a more interpersonal level, and they face some of their greatest fears…standing in front of their peers and putting themselves out there. I’m so glad your husband continues his work – thank you for sharing my story with him. ~ RDK

  4. Every Mother’s son, the creative ones that are now the CEO, Fellows, engineers, the ‘get it doners’, and aren’t we glad WE didn’t squash their enthusiasm, and had teachers that saw PAST the immediate inconvenience into the “FUTURE”. Thanks for sharing and THANKS to educators everywhere!

    • Ha, ha – - no, not at all. In some ways, I’m glad I left the young man’s name out. Someone else made a comment about THEIR son (hoping his teachers were as forgiving…) so that might be a good thing. Glad you got a laugh today…take care, friend – KR

  5. Reblogged this on stuff i tell my sister and commented:
    This post is just too great not to share. Some laughs and possibly reflections for your Friday. Thank you to my sweet friend, Kelly (RED DIRT KELLY!) for sharing these memories and giggles. And to you, Kelly, I would say….don’t wait until you are 80 for that park bench meeting ♥ (I thought of my son as I read this! oh my!)

  6. I loved this Kelly!! I could so ‘hear’ your voice when I read it!! What a sweet story!! :-) When you two are on that park bench and you need sustenance…please don’t let him borrow your car to pick up pizza!! LOL ;-)

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