It was a way to keep track of friends and acquaintances before social media. Small, usually leather-bound, sometime purse-sized, they represent a lifetime of work, school and travel.
I recently opened a page at random and found a person that I’d not contacted for decades. I took to Google and found her obituary.
Her name was Mildred. She changed my life. And I never really got to thank her.
She was assigned to be my mentor, my student teaching cooperative teacher. I was 20, she was 42.
I wanted her life, I was sure of it.
We taught Spanish. She was the Foreign Language Director for her affluent suburban school district north of Philadelphia.
It took a 6 inch bun on the top of her head to reach 5 feet of height, but her spirit was 6 feet tall. She was a dynamo, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, loved and admired by all.
A world traveler, she taught in Europe, South America, Puerto Rico. She spent her summers in foreign lands, returning to class with souvenirs and tall tales of local color. I was mesmerized.
As my practicum ended, we shared a dinner. She looked at me with tearful eyes. She said she would trade her adventurous life in an instant for a chance at love, home and family.
She envied me.
It rattled me for a long time.
I was engaged and about to graduate. I had doubts about marriage, and children; was giving up a teaching fellowship to follow my fiance’s career. I was many months sleep-deprived, and coming off my first manic episode.
And here was my professional idol, telling me she would trade her life for mine, without hesitation. Whoa.
We exchanged letters for a while. I never saw her again.
She died alone in a nursing home after a long illness. Her obit was published in the local paper where she retired after 40 years. She influenced so many.
There were only 7 entries on her tribute page.
My heart broke a little.