Recently I visited an old friend. My friendship with Enid started 43 years ago, and she is now 91, so that qualifies as an “old friend” in every sense of the word.
When I joined her to teach third grade, I was uneasy about teaching such babies since I’d previously taught upper grades. She immediately set me at ease and took me under her wing. Until I met Enid, I was eager for Steve to finish school (we’d moved there for him to teach at Illinois State and start his doctorate at the University of Illinois) so I could quit teaching.
Enid changed all that. She taught with relish, obviously enjoying the third-graders. She would come across the hall on a beautiful fall or spring day and say, “I think these kids need a break, don’t you? Let’s let them play outside for a while!” I learned from her that taking breaks can be far more productive than keeping their little noses to the grindstone. I appreciated her joy in teaching and I copied both her strategies and her spirit. Those four years we taught together taught me far more about teaching than my student teaching and the three years I’d taught.
I learned from Enid the importance of going to the teachers’ lounge. In my previous years of teaching, I’d hardly socialized with anyone. I often worked through my lunch hour (never skipping a meal, of course, but eating at my desk!) as well as any planning period I might have. Again, I learned that the break was good for my spirits, chatting with the other teachers and getting to know them through social activities outside of school.
Enid had the idea of taking a class together at the U of I. I’d already begun my Master’s degree in North Carolina, but of course that was behind me. I enrolled in the U of I and she and I and our friend Barb drove the 50 miles after school to go to our night class, then back to teach the next day.
I have no idea what courses I took there, but I well recall the lively conversations en route and occasional stops on the way home to eat or have drinks. Being in a car together for two hours every week brought big-time bonding. As we lunched together when I visited Enid, the years seemed to roll away.
I remember telling Enid in the spring of 1972 that we were moving to the Cincinnati area. The next day she came bearing an article from one of her many magazines that told about the renovation of Music Hall and all the desirable artistic performances there. She’d also read about a new theme park on the outskirts of Cincinnati—Kings Island.
And now we’ve lived in this area ever since. We keep in touch with Enid via Christmas letters and noteworthy events—births, deaths, marriages. Our friendship is such that we talk “a blue streak” and yet can have comfortable silences as well.
She has had many skin cancers removed, but she dismisses any discussion of illness or medication. She said it makes her feel like an old woman to talk about such. She has strong opinions on most things and is interested in the opinions of others. For example, she has decided that Martha Stewart is a force in returning Americans to more civility in their homes and lives. “But,” she said in her usual understated way, “she is just so annoying.”
Enid is my role model. She is in four bridge clubs and a book club and works on church projects. She drives herself wherever she needs to go, and drives better than I do at night. She has a daughter and a granddaughter within a few miles, and numerous step-children, step-grandchildren, and even step-great-grandchildren. She is the reigning matriarch of a large clan.
I love her and love being with her. When I returned from our visit, my husband said, “You should visit Enid more often. You’re more invigorated and lively than you’ve been in a long time.” He’s probably right. The six-hour drive was worth it. She’s still teaching me, even at my age. A quotation that I connect with Enid and our years together is “Living well is the best revenge.” Enid definitely knows how to live well.