Don’t Call Me Matt
Not long ago, I was sitting out on the veranda at Tibi’s, having come in directly from the job site, to grab a late afternoon meal. I had debated whether or not to venture into town, because my clothes were covered with sawdust and grime, but was persuaded because it was between meals, and there would not likely be a lot of patrons.
A young woman came out to take our order, and I flashed on a kindergarten child, a delicate little girl, accompanied by her younger brother and mom, as she was dropped off at the classroom. My brain said “former student,” but my mouth said nothing, until our waitperson had swept back into the restaurant, taking our food requests to the kitchen. Then Casey said, without even realizing it, I think, “That would be Jessica, but you already know that.”
I was up on my feet in an instant, traipsing on through the establishment, until I saw her coming back out from behind the front counter. Now when she saw the expression on my face, and came around the counter, it was quick-hug time and a twenty-second period of time to say howdy. Jessica was Juliet in the second of three Romeo and Juliet productions, and I still remember how she and Tai Jai did the balcony scene through the wailing of an unhappy infant. How a parent could remain in our classroom “theater” while her/his child was raising such a ruckus, was beyond comprehension, but my two student stars stayed the course, and completed the scene as though they were seasoned veterans.
I see Dan all of the time, though on the very first occasion, I drew his momentary wrath by calling him by his brother’s name, Matt. I hope I never make that mistake again. Of course I see Heather all of the time at Pour Girl’s, along with Heidi and Jaime, and Jessica, when she is back from culinary school.
I was sitting recently in Gravier’s Tire and Auto, when I saw a young man with a beard enter and approach the counter. Sure that I knew him, but unable to place the no-longer-fresh-faced eighth grader, I had to wait to hear his voice before I was transported, once again, back to theater days. I was hearing the voice of Count Orsino, from Twelfth Night and knew that it was Tyler. I had barely had time to give him a handshake and a nod, when in strolled Adam, who now towers over me. That never surprises me, only that he seemed genuinely pleased to see me.
As he shook my hand, he said he didn’t know if he would have recognized me because I have a rather prominent mustache. I told him that was OK, that he had changed more than I had. My hair color (including my mustache) may be turning a little frost-tinted, and I might be covered in sawdust, but I think I am easier for them to identify, than they are for me to recognize.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I had a field day at Ben’s wedding, looking around at a collection of twenty-something former students, who had come to celebrate the wedding. There were Lito’s roommates, Kevin and Travis, and there was Dan. There was also a young woman who came over to give me a congratulatory hug, who I recognized as my back-stage director for one of the productions, Leslie, there with her husband, who works with Lito for Cal Fire. Additionally, there was Trayton, and there was Chris, who was a sixth grader in 1991, a member of one of the two classes of kids, who came out to Camp Wente (the venue for the wedding) when Mrs. Wade and I took two classes of students here in 1991.
Finally there were Amber and Vanessa, who seemed genuinely happy to see me. I don’t know; I can’t help thinking your old middle school language arts teacher would be the last person on the face of the earth that you would want to encounter, your worst nightmare.
However, if that is not the case, and you happen to see this old guy tottering around one of the local businesses, who seems vaguely familiar, and you approach him, just know he would be delighted to see you. You will probably have to help him out with a name, because he is advanced in age, but it will still bring a smile to his face. If you are lucky, he will give you a break, and not ask you to diagram any sentences today.