The year is 1996.
Warrenton Junior High School.
Yes, back when they were Junior High Schools and not "Middle Schools."
You are in a lower-level corner room that has some windows near the top. A bit drab when empty, but when full it is bustling!
It's an overcrowded school system, so a split-shift day is in full swing until they can complete a new High School building.
This yellow room has two teachers desks!
There are High School Math classes from the crack of dawn to noon, and Junior High English, Publications, and Drama classes from noon to about sunset.
A very nervous, yet very happy to have a job in her chosen field, 22 year-old graduate of Central Missouri State University (now UCM) stands before a classroom of 33 students in a Junior High Drama class near the middle of the school day. It's huge. Her other classes are manageable, but this one is boiling over with eye-rollers, talkers, and kids angry because they just found out their old Drama teacher resigned two weeks before school started.
It is so crowded that some students take turns sitting on the floor the first week until they cram more desks in.
In the crowd, there's a girl who at times makes empathetic eye contact with the very inexperienced teacher who is just trying to remember what it was like to be in Drama. (The last time she was in Drama was in High School!)
Back to the student... she's 14 maybe going on 15, tall for her age, and mature. She is always well-mannered, but there's this spirit to her. A little spark in her eyes that only increases as the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months. She is vibrant.
The nervous, young, and not-so-bright teacher and her hit it off.
They laugh at the same things, they tell the same jokes, and they think the same things often.
By the end of the year, the girl steals the show on stage, at nursing homes where she would give monologues, and steals the young teacher's heart.
Flash forward 20 years. I (the young teacher) have silver streaks taking over my hair and I feel way less nervous. I am at Washington High School in a windowless, but VERY bright classroom.
That young girl who I just adored and secretly wished could be my little sister is still very much in my life.
I was only in that town and school for two years, but somehow Krista and I connected. Over the years she and I have been in touch, out of touch, back in touch... and we've celebrated many milestones.
She sang in my wedding. She was also one of the first to express her sadness over a decade later when my marriage ended. She celebrated my 40th birthday. She made sure I had a chance to see her in Theatre during her run as a Graduate student at Lindenwood University. She has played on a slip and slide with my daughter. She's met me for lunches, a roadtrip, and more. We have laughed, cried, and laughed some more over the years together.
As an only child, she very well could be the little sister I always wanted - yet at the same time I didn't want a sibling for "real." See, the beauty of Krista is I have never had to share a house with her or fight for the attention of our parents or bathroom counter space! Ha!
Also, she's 32 and I am 41. There's just enough of an age gap, I think sometimes she listens to my advice and doesn't write me off as too old or too young.
What has her on my mind this summer? Another life celebration has occurred. I got to visit her in the hospital, and hold her newborn daughter on Saturday, July 18th. Grace is beautiful. I figured I would love her since I have loved her mom for 20 years as my "adopted" sister, and I was right. I am not great with babies, but this one - she has stolen my heart just lke her mom has.
I am so thankful I got to meet and hold Krista's little Grace recently. I am also thankful Krista's mom went and sat with my daughter so I could do so. (Kids under 14 are not allowed in the hospital she's in).
So, the age-old question(s) posed to me yearly are addressed right here today in this blog entry:
~ Who is your favorite student, MT?
~ I am your favorite, right?
~ Come on, who is your favorite?
Mystery solved. It's still Krista...
...or maybe it's ALL of you?
Until next time,