As I approached the end of first grade, I knew exactly whom I wanted to be my second grade teacher: Miss Lila. I had a very personal reason because she had dated my father in high school. I found that fascinating.
My hope was realized when on the first day of my second year at Portland Grade School I saw my name under “Mrs. Lila Ligon – Second Grade.” What a thrill! She seemed equally delighted—but then she seemed delighted with all her students. Each of us felt special.
I have few memories of that year, but I do remember that our duplicated worksheets were in purple ink and they were often damp when we got them. Occasionally I got to help Miss Lila make copies using a gel-like substance in a wooden frame. We’d put the master copy on the gel, let it sit a moment, then peel it off. Then we’d put the sheets of paper one at a time on the gel and voila! There was the purple copy of the worksheet. This was only for pages she hadn’t gotten done ahead of time on the big machine in the teachers’ workroom.
My other memories are of my spelling mortifications. The first was when I went to Miss Lila as I was writing a sentence and asked, “How do you spell ‘wuz’?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, looking shocked.
“Like ‘he wuz goin’ with us,’” I answered.
“Why, Lanita Bradley!” she exclaimed. “You make hundreds on your spelling tests all the time and you don’t know how to spell ‘was’? It’s w-a-s.” She looked at me suspiciously, and I slunk back to my desk. My Southern dialect had betrayed me. How was I to know that the word in books that I pronounced correctly was the same one I’d been pronouncing ‘wuz’ all my life?
The second spelling error was made due to false confidence on my part—nothing I could blame on anyone else. I never studied for the spelling tests because I thought I knew all the words. So when Miss Lila said, “kindergarten,” I confidently wrote “kindergarden.” Never having been to one or even having known anyone who had, I was clueless about the word or its German origin. Not quite the spelling whiz I thought I was.
Move forward five years when I became close to Miss Lila’s daughter, Linda. It took us a while to become friends because, as Linda tells it, whenever she didn’t measure up in some way at home, Miss Lila would say, “I’ll bet Lanita Bradley wouldn’t do that!”
So it understandably took Linda a while to get past that!
Fast forward to last week. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Linda—and Miss Lila! Yes, at age 92, she’s as petite and bright and quick to speak her mind as ever. I said, “Miss Lila, Steve would like to get a picture of us together. OK?”
“Well, I don’t know why, but I guess it’s OK,” she answered. So here’s our picture. Wish I had my second grade school picture, but I’m not sure where Mother kept all those jewels from time gone by. For now, I’ll just treasure this one—and the memory it represents.