I had this great, angry post all prepared in my head this morning about birth control, but I've gotten all dressed up in my red and black and my furor has ebbed.
I think that is probably a sentence that requires some explanation. Through the 80's and early 90's, there was a principal in the community in which I grew up that became the center of life at our high school. As it was a fairly small community--smaller than than it is now--the high school was the center of the community. Needless to say, that this remarkable man and his lovely wife were, by extension, a very important part of my high school years and our little hamlet. In a small town, people end up infiltrating your lives in unexpected ways. The wife was my parents' loan officer. And though she must have been the same for hundreds of people she never forget to say hello and remember everyone's name. Her husband was our principal, but he also was the man who taught my older brother much of his love for the outdoors, and maybe even took him ice fishing a time or two. Even years later, before his health declined so terribly, when I would go home to visit, I would see him at community functions--a parade, a wrestling match, a fair. He always said hello. He always remembered names.
A couple of favorite memories. One more personal, the other less so:
His first love was biology; he had the degrees to show it also. He would sometimes show up in my AP Biology class and after he sat and listened for a while, he would just start booming out questions from the back of the room. We never knew enough to keep up with him. A couple of times he even took over our teacher's lectures (it was all done in a very friendly spirit) and he was remarkable. He would take a glance at where we were at in the textbook and just start talking . . . never missing a beat. We loved and respected him. We wanted so badly to please him. There was a personal congratulation when I passed that AP test with flying colors. It became one of the first important markers in a rather stacked high school resume. When I was a senior, he gladly wrote a letter of recommendation as I advanced in a very competitive scholarship offering. I knew, without a doubt, that he had my back.
At every assembly or pep rally he would stand up and talk. You could hear a pin drop for the respect nearly every kid gave his booming voice and bulky presence. There were 1000 of us. He would talk about what it meant to be a Warrior. He talked about pride and respect and achievement. No honor or achievement or win was too small to celebrate. He created a culture of celebration in each others' accomplishments. At the end of each speech the tension and power in his voice would build and then he would say, "I just have one question for you . . . ." there would be a long pause and the potential energy around you would crackle in the air as we waited . . . waited . . . for the question we were exploding to answer. "How does it feel to be a warrior???!!!" And we would go crazy loco. Because, after he spoke, there was no question about how good it felt.
So much past tense today is not just about the fact that so much of this happened long ago. It is because this wonderful, caring man passed away this week after many years of health struggles. He may not have been known outside our small community, but he held a generation of kids together. He was an educator first and foremost--a man of modest means and simple tastes--but the real wealth he spread will have effects for generations yet to come. He is on a short list of people who inspired me to become a teacher. It is one inspiration out of hundreds and hundreds. What did we become because we knew this man? Volumes could be written.
I hardly ever wear red and black together; they were my high school colors and after wearing hardly anything else several days a week from 91-93, it is still "too high school" for my taste. But today I'm decked out. I left the letter sweater in the box, though I think if I was still in my hometown today I would have had to wear it. And it must be admitted, I still bleed red and black. Because, Mr. H., it still feels pretty darn good to be a Warrior.