It’s the month of May! Graduation is coming, and Mother’s Day just passed.
My mama is gone, but I remember how she made efforts to teach me bits and pieces about many things—flower gardening, jigsaw puzzles, dippers in the sky, baking tips, on and on…. She was my first teacher.
We’d be in the kitchen, and she’d say, "Well now, let’s dust the crust with powdered sugar before filling the pie crust. We want it sweet!"
Many decades later, she became a resident in a nursing home. There was no more baking, no more gardening. But I had the memories, and she could still fit a jigsaw together! Puzzles had been an everyday adventure, everyday distraction when I grew up. Our puzzles were never saved for holidays.
We’d put the edges together first. That was the golden rule! The picture on the box would remind her of something or someone in her early years, and then she’d start a story as we fit pieces together.
This may be how I learned a little family history. Was it all true? I doubt some of it. But it was her reality, and it was entertaining!
Family members—so many lessons from brothers and sisters, parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins. So many teachers. Even a two-year-old can be a powerful teacher.
As a child, I relied on schools to teach me. Not nearly as interesting as daffodils, quacking ducks, the river rising, or how to use makeup. However, I needed every conjugated verb, every story about Abe Lincoln, every reading problem. Those things were not taught in my home.
Churches were full of nice teachers. They wanted me to grab and hold on to Jesus. It didn’t matter which church we attended. Jesus was the main topic. I was the oldest girl of 12 children, so I took all the help I could get.
I believed that God loved me and that Jesus was His son. Jesus loved me so much that He died for me. Gosh, that’s still pretty amazing. To this day, when a decision must be made, I try to reflect on whether or not this is Jesus’ will and plan for my life. Or is it my plan?
Friends and co-workers. Oh, yes, they have definitely been my teachers. Not structured teachers, but still, my teachers. I have watched, listened, and paid attention to the outcomes of their varied situations. With friends, we’d talk about circumstances, boundaries, options, how to find an acceptable resolution. They taught me tough love and problem-solving, again and again.
Books—I so appreciate the authors and poets I read and reread. They have always had something to teach me. They are still my teachers.
It has been the same story. Teaching and learning, over and over and over. It’s like that jigsaw puzzle—always trying to fit the pieces together.
And sometimes, I even became the teacher.
I recall one day when my twin grandsons were telling me a frustration of theirs. I asked, “What can you do to change it?”
“Nothing,” one answered quickly.
“I think you may be right,” I said. “It may be time to fly over it, let it go, forgive and accept.…”
The other one said, “But, but….”
“Oh, I get it,” the first one said. “We can use our imaginations and fly over stuff we don’t like and can’t fix.”
“Exactly. If you can’t change it, just fly over it—or be upset and miserable,” I said. “You actually do have a choice, inside yourself.”
“Okay, so it’s okay to just fly over stuff, if we can think to do it,” one said.
“Yes. If you see you can’t change it, take a deep breath and fly over it. Know that your Mamaw does it all the time, mainly when I bump into things that are disturbing but realize that I cannot change them.”
I remember that conversation well. It was like these boys saw they could quit searching for pieces of the puzzle and fly over troubled waters.
An ah-ha moment for those teen boys.
Impossible to know how many times teachers in my life have led me through a maze to the right answer. To try to count how often would be like counting how often I’ve walked through my mama’s kitchen and thought, Mmm, that smells good!
My thanks to all my wonderful teachers, past and present. I love you for having been there for me.
Pat Durmon's mother, Cuba Holmes. First teacher, too! Photographed by Pat Durmon, September 2000.
Poetry Books by Pat Durmon