Music and memories

We’re bracing for change this week – a big one: 

School starts this week. 

My kids are so excited to meet their new teachers – as am I. I know their names but not their faces yet, and I can’t wait to hear what all my kids learn during this upcoming school year. 

Everyone has teachers who they remember impacted their lives, often not even because of academics. I had one – she definitely taught us proper English and how to diagram a sentence, but I remember her more for the time she put into making sure we were well-rounded human beings – as well as knowing all of our linking verbs (which I can still recite). 

Her name was Mrs. Elms. 

She was my junior high school English teacher – and junior high school for me was sixth, seventh and eighth grade, so she impacted my life for those awkward early teenage years where my hair was too short, my braces were too tight, and my style was…questionable. 

She hated improper English. My classmates and I, when we were assigned group class work, would sneakily look around at each other and then say, “Well, she were going to the party” or “I ain’t ready for that test,” and Mrs. Elms, no matter what she was doing, would jerk her head up with her shoulder-length brown hair flying and snap, “She WHAT?” or “I WHAT?” 

It was all in jest, of course; Mrs. Elms constantly wanted us to be aware of how to speak properly and how speaking with the wrong subject-verb agreement hurt her ears – and should hurt ours. 

She didn’t just teach us English, either. Fridays were the best days – not because Mrs. Elms brought in a TV for us to relax and watch some movies or because she brought special treats to eat. No, on Fridays, Mrs. Elms brought out these old song books. I think she rescued them when one of our rural parish schools closed, but I could be mistaken. 

She would play the piano, and for three years, on Friday, she taught us music. We didn’t have a music class, not like the ones that students in Ruston get. Every week, I hear about how my kids have music and the songs they learn, but it wasn’t like that for me. Mrs. Elms made sure we got music, though, and it wasn’t the music most of us listened to. 

Because of her, I learned songs such as “Taps,” “The Rose,” and, my personal favorite, “Little Liza Jane.” I am fairly sure if I had another daughter, her name would have been Eliza Jane because I love that song so much, even as an adult. 

I don’t remember how long we sang – I know all of us would ask to sing our favorites. Sometimes it would be just two or three songs, but sometimes it seemed like we sang for ages – and we all loved it. 

All of us, no matter our gender, socioeconomic status or hobbies, wanted to sing for Mrs. Elms. I don’t particularly remember any of us being very good at singing, but we enjoyed it. We enjoyed singing those songs that were part of Mrs. Elms’ childhood – and are now part of ours. 

The eighth graders from our school merged with a larger high school (and I say “larger” loosely, as I myself graduated with a class of less than 50), and we became Bulldogs instead of Broncos. We all drifted apart as we made new friends, and that became even more pronounced after high school. But even now, when we see each other and start to reminisce, every conversation eventually will have this comment: “Remember those songs we used to sing? Yeah, those were some good times.” 

Thank you, Mrs. Elms, for those good times. 

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