The beautiful fall day when I left home in southern Indiana to drive to northern Indiana — to begin my first year as a public school teacher — my mother walked out to the car with me. In her parting words was a message that has gone with me lo —through out these many years. I’ve treasured the memory as I’ve treasured the words. Whether they imparted the best instruction I ever received or not, one thing is certain: they have gone with me throughout my entire life. It just took her putting them into words to make me realize that is exactly what she had done in the raising of my siblings and me.
I hear your thoughts: WHAT WERE THE WORDS?
“Make the most of the magic moments”, my Latin and English school teacher mother told me. She explained there would be moments in the classroom for teaching valuable lessons that have nothing to do with what is being taught. Here it is in Latin: carpe momentum — seize the moment!
As I drove down the lane, my reflecting upon her words softened the dreaded impact of leaving home, of leaving behind a childhood fortified by magic moments. As stated in previous posts most of the growing up years — for much of my generation — was during lean decades of our country’s long, slow recovery from the 1929 depression. By experience, however, I knew that growing up poor was no deterrent of magic moments.
Several years ago, I had a pleasant conversation with a sibling of how much we loved summer thunderstorms, because of Mom. Mom loved hearing the crashes of thunder – so did we. She loved the flashes of lightning – so did we. She loved the sudden change in the atmosphere — so did we. How could we not, but have appreciated and loved an event of nature – though scary to some – for us, was made exciting and invigorating?
Originating in our minds in one magical first moment was delight in crashing and flashing in the upper regions. So it was in many ways throughout our youths — because our minds were ever being shaped by her through countless examples, instructions and words, always honorable. To this day, I welcome summer thunderstorms, but of course not the more violent ones. Magic moments do have their limits!
Limits or no, many times magic moments proved useful in my classroom. About twenty years ago, I did a stint of substitute teaching in local schools. One morning I was called to teach art. Students in the first class were reasonably behaved considering a sub was on hand — except for one lad who kept vying for attention. I soon learned that his father was stationed at the nearby, now defunct, Fort Harrison – aha, the magic moment – and a needed one, too!
Art could just wait! Seizing the magic moment, I responded with how much I admired the posture of those in the military –how pleasing and professional they were in appearance, and how fortunate for him to have in his father so accessible an example – that he might be reminded just by seeing his father – to stand straight and not slouch while sitting – and in that way, he too could be an example. To see him beam and hear his brief response that revealed a young lad’s admiration for his father was an unexpected morning’s gift – and another magic moment – to point out that good posture was all part of giving some action of self to make the world a better place, and that it wasn’t a gift that was purchased by money.
Then ensued a brief discussion with the class on other ways that individuals could give to others – not with physical gifts – but from the heart. They came up with, “sharing my book with someone who forgot theirs”, “giving someone a pat on the back who looks unhappy”, “not ignoring a new student, etc. I challenged, “what about giving your quietness if you finish the lesson first, so that others will have the same quiet that you had? In your own ways, you can give in making the world more pleasant for yourself and for others.”
The students from that art class are now grown, and some with children of their own. Do any remember those long ago moments spent pondering the realm of thoughtfulness? More importantly, in what ways might they have gained from it? Did they leave the room with minds expanded in the invisible activity of thought?
Two magic moments — not missed — allowed art class to continue without further issue. Thanks, Mom, and thanks and thanks, and many thanks!
For her — gone ten years, now — and other mothers:
“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 30:10
“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” Proverbs 30:25
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 30:26
“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. Henry Ward Beecher
The great academy, a mother’s knee.” Thomas Carlyle
“What the mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin.” Henry Ward Beecher
“The peace she put into my heart I shall carry all my life and share with others.” ed.
lo – look! see!: now mainly in lo and behold! (Webster’s New World Dictionary, pub. 1994)
lo – look; see; behold; observe. This word is used to excite particular attention in a hearer (or reader) to some object of sight or subject of discourse. (Noah Webster’s The American dictionary of the English Language – 1847 edition)
stint – a specified period of time spent doing something – see Webster’s for additional meanings
vying – that vies, that competes
beam – a radiant look, smile, etc. – see Webster’s for additional meanings.
defunct – no longer living or existing
Today’s ending poem came to mind as I was finishing this post. Once again, it is an untitled verse from Emily Dickinson (1830-1866), and has always been one of my favorites for the beautiful message it imparts:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
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