That day stands out clearly in my mind, even after all these years. Always extremely shy (hard to believe now, but at the time it was very much so), I had always found it a bit difficult to make new friends of my own age. I grew up with older parents (at this time, Mama was 49 and my father was 64) and their circle of friends were older adults who already had adult children. My social interaction with people my own age was somewhat lacking, being limited almost totally to the time spent with them in a classroom, and I had just left behind in New Mexico all the friends I had made.
School had already been in session for about a week when we arrived in Clinton. After the required presentation of my Albuquerque school transcripts, vaccination records and the like, and completion of various forms which would allow me to become a student here, I was escorted down the narrow, creaky, smelling of O'Cedar Floor Polish, wooden-floored hall to my first class -- English III -- which was already in progress. I distinctly remember my escort opening the classroom door and presenting me, like some strange package that had showed up on the stoop; something unordered and, perhaps, unwanted. All eyes were on me, and I was all eyes!
Did I feel like an ugly duckling? Oh, yes, indeed! It was going to be a LONG day!
However, the clothing shock was not quite over. An adult person in rather strange garb was coming toward me from behind the large desk at the front of the classroom. I certainly had never seen the like in any class I'd attended in my 10 years as a student. The teacher, for it was she who approached, was probably just under 5 feet tall. While she was not obese, svelte is not a word one would apply to her un-corseted body. Her facial features were what my mother would have called "strong," her nose long, straight and narrow tipped. Her hair was, if anything, straighter than my own, but dark, cut very short and 'shingled' up the back. She wore neither make-up nor earrings. Her facial skin was lovely, unwrinkled and slightly tanned, although she had dark circles under her eyes. As I recall, she wore pince-nez glasses, which I had read about, but never before seen on a 'real' person.
[ I think these are the sort of shoes Loretta Young wore in the movie The Bishop's Wife. They were, at the time, touted to be just the thing for women who had to be on their feet for long periods; stylish but comfortable.]
The hand she held out to welcome me was slender, with long, nicotine-stained fingers and well-shaped, unpolished nails; she wore a plain, narrow gold band on her left ring finger.
My escort introduced us; "Mrs. V., this is Patricia G."
She greeted me with a beautiful smile, her voice low-pitched and warm. And her accent! Well, it wasn't "Southern!" Not a drawl within 100 miles! I could actually understand what she was saying. All was not lost! I felt better already.
Thus it was; my first encounter with Mrs. V., who would, over the next two years, become not only a beloved teacher, but a mentor who would begin to bring me out of my shyness, and would forever tangle me in a web of words.
More to come.