Her name was Pat, and she ran the middle school where I taught for six and a half years in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Pat knew everything, and everything went through Pat, the principal’s secretary.
Pat was all business, and so was I. We didn’t develop a rapport past simple nice-ities. Others could get Pat to loosen up, but I didn’t have a clue how to do that.
Every day, I taught homeroom and seven classes. I had 200 students pass through my doors. I was in my twenties but still wiped out when the bell ran at 3:00. My routine was to leave my classroom, oh so far from the head office, to stop by the student store to buy a Twix candy bar, then head to the office to pick up my mail. Then it was back to my desk to clean up, eat my treat with a cup of tea, and get ready for the next day.
One day I walked into the office and had to ask Pat a question. As I stood there holding my mail and Twix bar, she looked at me and said, “You know, if you didn’t eat candy bars, your face wouldn’t break out.”
I was stunned. What a personal comment from a woman who never gave me the time of day, unless I asked her what time it was.
Was she trying to mother me? I was at least 15 years younger than she was. Was she trying to be helpful? All she did was make me aware of my shiny face after a long day of answering 1000 questions from teens and tweeners.
I was so surprised that I didn’t have anything to say to Pat. I headed for the door and then down the long blue-carpeted hallway to my classroom, tucked into the corner of one of the many pods. No one had a door on his or her classroom. Great for these days of COVID but bad for these days of school shootings.
I might have stopped in the restroom to see how badly my face looked. I might’ve eaten my chocolate bar in defiance. How dare she say that to me!
What I really needed to do was to wash my face in the middle of the day, but there was no good place to do that. It had to wait until I got home.
I drove the 30 miles across the Missouri River to Omaha, Nebraska, where I had, first an apartment, and eventually a tiny house.
Today I offered my sister a treat from the little cardboard purse my mother had given her on May Day (it’s an Iowa thing). She snubbed the mini Hershey’s chocolate bar, the Almond Joy, and the Russell Stover’s treat and selected the tiny Twix bar.
“Did you know that Twix bars have been around for 40 years?” I asked her.
Then the flashback to Pat and the thing she said to me, when all I wanted to do was have some chocolate and congratulate myself for surviving another day as a teacher.
I wonder where Pat is now. I wonder if she would like the fact that I still eat a Twix bar every single day.
There are many things I cannot eat, but as long as I can get my Twix, it’s all good.