In 1961 the hill behind the junior high school had not yet been cleared of timber and it stood in mid-autumn glowing in the afternoon sun, scarlet and crimson, orange and gold.
She unlatched the old casement window and pushed it out and let the warm breeze filter into her empty classroom. In that day the school’s tradition was to march the entire student body, under faculty supervision, to those football games that began on school time. For many reasons, not the least of which was that this released the students from their desks an hour early, almost everyone followed tradition. The kids who did not have a quarter for admission or whose parents objected to the near-compulsory attendance as something like the mark of the beast all ended up in the school library for a study hall. These students were among the most docile in the school and the hour-long wait for the bell there was quiet and uneventful and demanded no extra supervision.
She was a believer in the tradition and she loved watching the boys she had taught in class all suited up like warriors and living their lives to the full. And she did her part. When it was her time to help shepherd the marchers the six blocks across town to the field, she never shirked. She had worked concessions, managed the cheerleaders and helped with the band, all as demanded.
But she loved being alone in the school on these the last of the warm, sunny days. She was never more relaxed and at rest than then and never more completely appreciative of the place she had been given in the world as a leader and teacher of this rising generation in this little town. She would scan the rows of desks and wonder at how orderly they looked in the vacant room and she would catch the scent of the baking lawns behind the school and hear the sweep of the janitor’s broom in the hallway outside her classroom and she would think of the men – one of them her great uncle – who had built this school, who had laid these three stories of red brick so straight and true and of those who had felled the great oaks and planed the boards that the janitor now stroked his broom across.
And she thought of the young girls in her class, so many of them with such beauty and charm and of the young men from whom they might choose and she prayed that all would be well with them and that they would find their way.