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September 2, 2009
I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday, but I remember each of them vividly: Mrs. Mary Harkins, who seemed glamorous to me when I was five. Mrs. Turner, with her white hair and pale blue shirtwaist dresses. Miss Grafton, with her long skirts and high-necked blouses, a handkercheif at her waist folded to look like a flower. Mrs. Patterson, large and jolly, redhaired. Mrs. Olla Harkins, who was Mrs. Mary Harkins mother-in-law. Mrs. Higgins, who had been to every state in the union except Utah and so made a special trip there (Alaska and Hawaii weren't states in those days.) Mr. Seidel, the principal, who also taught sixth grade.

Q starts today. After sixty years of teaching, he is a master designer of courses, and has created a new one this term -- books that have inspire cliches. Like "Catch-22" and "Frankenstein." Like "Machiavellian" and "Uncle Tom." Tell him not to forget "Gatsby," Corinna said on the phone. Her students always love Gatsby. She started yesterday, although the students don't come until Tuesday -- meetings and preparing her classroom for an entire week. Anna has been tutoring for several weeks already, and will have to move her students to after school hours next week, I guess, now that summer is over. They have various kinds of learning disabilities, and she provides additional support outside the classroom. Her students' disabilities being language-based, making the teaching of reading a real challenge, it must have thrilled her that her son's first word was from one of his books. "Baby!" he said the other day, when they came to a favorite picture of a baby on one of his board books. "Baby!" The reaction he got was so enthusiastic that he says it all the time now. "Baby!" "Baby!"

We come from a long line of preachers and teachers. My parents met when he was the principal and she was a teacher in a tiny logging town in northern Minnesota-- decades later, he still remembered how she looked in the hat she wore in the interview. My grandmother ran away from the man who was to become my grandfather, to teach in Yakima, Washington and live in a sod house. After a year, though, enough was enough: he came out from Minnesota to fetch her back and marry her. My English grandmother taught music to her husband's parishioners out on the prairie in the Dakotas -- it's hard to imagine that she had many takers out there in those days, but she persevered. I still have the account book in which she faithfully recorded her earnings. She charged a nickel per lesson.

There were no women priests when I was young, and I did not dream renegade dreams of being one -- well, I did have one moment when I was seven of thinking perhaps I might, but was told immediately that only boys could. That was another age. Oh, okay, I said, glad of that information and unperturbed by it, and decided to teach.

Is there anybody as important in the life of a child as a teacher? No -- only parents, our first teachers, are more so. Back they go, this week, to another year of the painstaking and often frustrating task upon which the very future of the world depends.


A Prayer for Schools and Colleges

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities that they may be lively centers for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
--- Episcopal Book of Common Prayer


Upcoming Geranium Farm Events:

September 5th Quiet Day at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, Amelia, OH Barbara Crafton is retreat leader. 25 Amelia-Olive Branch Road, Amelia, Ohio 45102 Telephone 513-753-4115 or email

Monday, September 14, 8pm, EDT eMinistry Class with Barbara Crafton: A Year in Italy -- What happens spiritually when one is away from home for an extended period? What do you learn, and how do you learn it? This will be a phone conversation lasting an hour -- you don't even have to leave home! Register at

September 19 St. Philip's, Durham, NC Barbara Crafton is retreat leader.
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