“One of Life’s Great Mysteries,” column for Nov. 20, 2012

One of my favorite things to do is to visit classrooms and talk with children about two of their favorite things — storytelling and writing.

I love doing that. But my latest visit to Forest Grove Elementary in Pacific Grove, Calif., was especially a pleasure — partly because of the teacher.

“Class,” he said, smiling as he introduced me to a roomful of third-graders, “say good morning to my mom.”

For a mother, introductions don’t get much better than that.

All three of my children have surprised me with their career choices. I thought the oldest, for example, was going to be a cowboy for sure. It’s all he talked about for years.

Instead, he’s an actor. Go figure. I’ve seen him on TV countless times and I still can’t quite believe it. But it’s nothing compared to the surprise of seeing his younger sister and brother turn out to be teachers.

Their dad taught high-school chemistry and physics for almost 30 years before we lost him to cancer. When the kids were growing up, they used to say they never wanted to be a teacher because teachers work too hard and get paid too little.

I have no idea why they changed their minds. But their dad would probably be just as surprised as I am, and twice as proud, to know that they did.

I thought of that this morning, watching my youngest teach his class, seeing just how good, how natural he is, and how very much he’s like his dad.

“Would you like to read a book to the class?” he asked.

“Can I tell them a story first?”

“OK,” he said.

“Any story at all?”

He laughed. “Sure,” he said.

So I told them a story about their teacher. It goes like this.

When he was little boy, I said, a lot younger than they are now, he had a ragged blanket that he carried with him everywhere.

The summer before he started kindergarten, we all took turns — his dad and his brother and his sister and I — trying our best to convince him that big boys do not take blankets to school.

“I know,” he would say, nodding matter-of-factly. “But I will take mine.”

It took all my powers of persuasion and a ton of bribes to get him to agree, finally, to leave his blankie at home.

The first day of kindergarten I drove him to school — the same school where he’s now a teacher — hugged him goodbye and watched him bounce up the walkway to his classroom.

Then suddenly he turned, ran back down the walk, unzipped his backpack, pulled out his blankie and handed it to me.

“You keep it, Mom,” he said. “You might need it.”

His students all seemed to like that story, including the little girl whose granddad was his teacher back in fifth grade, 25 years ago, in the same room, and now volunteers as his aide.

Children are one of life’s great mysteries. Imagine if we could look at them when they’re newborns lying in a nursery, or toddlers learning to walk, or teenagers learning to drive, and see clearly what they’ll do with their lives. Would that make it easier or harder to be a parent? Who knows? It might at least mean a few less wrinkles and gray hairs.

I wish I could have known that day, standing on the walk, watching my youngest go off to kindergarten, that I would be back someday to watch him teach third grade.

I wish I could have had more faith in the dreams I dreamed for him and his brother and his sister — and me.

I wish I could’ve worried less, trusted more, left the ragged security blanket behind.

I wonder. Is it too late to start?


  1. Robbie Jordan says

    I enjoy reading your column here in Arkansas. I, too, am a Nana and a mother of four with a wonderful husband of soon to be 42 years. I am so thankful for teachers who love our children. The Lord knows they don’t teach to get rich, but they do gain riches in other ways! Also, regarding your “I wish I could haves” my Pastor has been speaking to us about regrets. We all have regrets of various sizes. He tells us to turn them over to The Lord, seek forgiveness when needed and move forward. That’s not easy but it is something to strive for. It’s never too late to worry less, trust more and have faith. I don’t know what your beliefs are but may God bless you.

  2. Debbie Fortune says

    Loved this story, Sharon…you have a wonderful way with words. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Alice M. Anderson says

    Oh Sharon, your beautiful “story” was so heartfelt. It also told me more about YOU. Even now you are enjoying the blessings of your grateful children. Just think, hopefully you will live as long as I have (91) you will have so many more blessings to add to your life’s treasures. I am so grateful to share your ever-loving spirit with so many others. Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours. Alice from Stockton

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