I enjoyed my eighth grade year save for my mathematics class which is somewhat ironic given that I would one day become a math teacher. I found myself totally lost but still making good grades in the class. Somehow I was able to fake it, but I really never had a genuine understanding of the concepts. I remember mostly being frightened of my math teacher who often sported aviator glasses and rarely seemed to smile. I’d come home and seek help from my mother who did her best to demystify the various processes. Eventually I would simply lock myself in my bedroom, pore over the examples in my textbook and teach myself the rubrics without ever really making the connections with what I was doing and the real world. I needed to understand the “why’s” and nobody was around to explain such things to me. That would happen later in my life.
The rest of my teachers were fabulous and I enjoyed their classes and their differing methods of conveying information. Because I have always enjoyed writing I imagined myself as a journalist and dreamed of one day writing articles for newspapers and magazines. My teacher, Mrs. Getz, intrigued me because she often spoke of the challenges that dedicated writers must consider. One of my favorite moments with her involved a lesson on proof reading papers before turning them in to her. She spoke of the incredible process that a group undertook in creating a new Bible. She said that literally dozens of dedicated souls had read and reread and corrected every possible flaw that might have crept into the sacred text. When the books were finally printed and ready for sale someone not even associated with the massive project picked up a copy, opened it and read, “I the beginning…” I never forgot that story and it makes me laugh to this very day.
Mrs. Colby was still teaching science and still as excited about the space program as ever. In February of my final year before high school she rolled a television standing on a tall cart into our classroom and let us watch John Glenn orbit the earth. We were all giddy over that accomplishment and somehow it made the future seem so exciting, especially since much of the pioneering work took place not far from where we sat in that classroom. In fact, we all knew people who were employed by NASA in those days. While I watched the work of brilliant engineers come to fruition, my brother Mike continued to dream of one day being part of the efforts to reach out into space. His mathematical abilities were already becoming apparent to his teachers and his inventiveness was stunning. I often imagined the kind of incredible conversations that he and our father might have had.
Pat continued to bring sheer delight to our family. He had Daddy’s love of humor and like our father, he collected friends easily. He was also a promising athlete, able to run like the wind, pitch like a big leaguer and adapt to virtually any sport quickly. He was quick witted, creative and a people magnet. In many ways he and Mike were becoming an amalgam of our father, each developing similar interests and talents that they shared with the father they would never really know.
I enjoyed my stint as Captain of the Twirlers on the drill team and met lots of good friends along the way. My mother had always wanted to be a twirler herself but never had the opportunity to take the lessons and learn the skills. She drove me back and forth to lessons with Yvonne McCutchin at a Houston City Park while also teaching school, taking care of the house and family business, attending my brothers’ ball games, serving as the Historian of the church Women’s Club and enjoying fun evening for herself in a bowling league. While I took her efforts for granted at the time I now wonder where she got all of her energy.
The school year ended with the May tradition of honoring the Blessed Virgin. The annual event always involved the eighth grade class in a ceremony dedicated to the mother of Jesus. I was surprisingly chosen by my fellow students to be part of a special group that crowned Our Lady with flowers. Mama was so excited, but I was simply ready to move up to high school. It was the graduation ceremony that brought me the most joy, especially when they awarded me with a one year scholarship to Mt. Carmel High School which was located right next door.
Grandpa and Grandma Little came to town to witness my transition from junior high school as did all of my aunts and uncles. After the ceremony we had a party at our house where Grandpa presented me with a book called Great Lives, Great Deeds. In the inscription that he wrote on the title page he challenged me to make my life one of integrity and good works. Somehow I felt that he was speaking to me as he knew my father might have done. I cherish that book to this very day and often joke that if my house were on fire it would be one of the first things I would grab on my way out the door.
Lynda’s mother, Mrs. Barry, gave me the first perfume that I had ever possessed. It was Estee Lauder Youth Dew and it made me feel just a more mature than my image in the mirror had done. It would become one of my all time favorite scents and I continue to wear. it often. Aunt Polly and Uncle Jack gave me a 1962 Proof Set of coins and Mama presented me with a watch. To my delight I received lots of cash which I saved for my first year in high school. My graduation was the first really big celebration and gathering since Daddy had died. Somehow I felt that he was present and that he approved of how well all of us had done.