Saturday, February 27, 2010

Facebook, Mrs. Faires, and fun music

My husband doesn't understand Facebook -- the social networking Web site that allows one to connect with almost anyone and everyone. He has no interest in it and doesn't see why I love it so.

"Isn't there one person in the world whom you're interested in, one person you'd like to contact, to check on and to see what they are doing now?" I asked.

He put down his paper and looked me in the eye.

"Anyone?" I asked, encouraged.

He hesitated and then responded, thoughtfully, "Nope," before picking up his paper again.

Perhaps that's because he never had a Mrs. Faires. Thanks to the magic of Facebook I've reconnected with her. Mrs. Faires was one of the best teachers I've ever had. And I was her very favorite student. I knew I was because she put my picture on the top of her door; she took a personal interest in me; she loaned me books; she showed off my projects to students studying to be teachers at the local college; she encouraged me to write, and she sent me cards and letters affixed with stickers, some of which I still have today.

Mrs. Faires turned what could have been an awkward fifth grade year for this skinny girl with braces into a magical time -- a time free of worries about boys, peer pressure from other girls and the fact that I can't sing a lick.

In fact, the best part of fifth grade, and I think all my former classmates would agree, were Fridays. Each Friday, Mrs. Faires would pull out her record player and albums and pass out folders with the lyrics to a variety of songs, and we would sing -- loudly and happily.
I had lunch with Mrs. Faires recently -- almost 30 years later -- and I must confess, though I was extremely delighted to see her, I couldn't help but debate whether to call her by her first name or last name. Anyway, she confided in me that since she's been on Facebook, she's had many a student recall those Friday "fun music" sing-a-longs.

During Austell's flood this fall, one former student remembered singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" during Mrs. Faires' class. Another said her husband started whistling "Tom Dooley," and she surprised him by singing every word. During our lunch, I admitted to her that I've impressed my children with my ability to sing every word of "Purple People Eater" and "The Unicorn Song." Well, impressed or perplexed one!

I remember once my fifth grade class talked Mrs. Faires into playing Pink Floyd's "Another brick in the wall." When we got to the "we don't need no education" part, Mrs. Faires pulled the plug. She loved and appreciated music but valued education more.

But most of all, she valued her students -- each and every one. I learned through Facebook that every student Mrs. Faires taught felt they were her favorite. As we lunched, I told her what a wonderful thing that was. While many teachers show favoritism, it's very few who show it to each and every single student in her class and mean it.

And, in case you were wondering, I did try calling her by her first name, Gayle. And when I told my 8-year-old son about it, he said, "You mean you called her by her first name? I would be scared!"

But, the truth is, no matter which name I chose, I am thrilled to be able to now call her not only my teacher, but my friend.

Even 30 years later, teachers still make the difference. Thank you, Mrs. Faires

Friday, February 19, 2010

King for the day

I always tell my youngest that he is my favorite son. He used to beam with pride until one day it dawned on him, "Hey, wait a minute, I'm your only son!"

Now I hear a lot of jokes about how I'm his favorite mom.

I read somewhere that if every child thinks the other is the favorite, then you've done a good job as a parent. So far, so good at my house. There's been many a time my son has asked why his older sister gets to do so and so. There's only one answer to the question, by the way: "Because she's older!"

Yes, most of the time, I pride myself on keeping the checks and balances in order, but, occasionally, even I find myself shaking my head at something my favorite son has talked me into doing.

And no matter what it is, his big sister (not to mention his daddy) will call me on it every time. Like yesterday, for example:

"You mean to tell me you are going to buy him an Elvis wig just because he doesn't have any hair to comb?" asked my daughter, incredulously, from the back seat.

"Why, yes, I am," I said, shaking my head in wonderment and thinking, how did this happen?

Then I remembered. It all started with a note from his school.

"You have 1950s day at school on Friday," I said.

"Yippee! I get to wear an afro."

"No, that's 1960s; this is 1950s."

"Oh, I thought you said Hippies day," he said. "What's 1950s?"

"You know, like Elvis."

"Oh, what did he look like?"

"Well, he always had his hair slicked back," I said. "You know, like Uncle Bill."

"The tall one?"


"I need some hair gel then," he said.

"You don't have any hair," pointed out my daughter.

I think it was then that I started feeling guilty. I've been giving my son a crew cut since he was 2, and every time he says he wants it to grow out. And every time I try to explain the definition of a cow lick to him. Not to mention, during his last haircut, I was multi-tasking, left the guard off and scalped the poor kid. As a result, somewhere around this time I MAY have mentioned buying a wig. The next thing I know we are at Party City looking at a wall of hair.

"Do you see an Elvis wig that you want?" I asked my son.

"Do you?" he said.

It was at this point I realized he had no idea what Elvis' hair looked like.

"I see hairy chest hair," he giggled.

"I don't think that will be necessary," I said, and $29 later, Elvis Jr. had left the building.

The next day, after a stern warning not to share it with anyone, my son left for school wearing his new wig along with an old pair of blue jeans, a white T-shirt and some sunglasses. As he was brushing his teeth, I told him to make sure he didn't let anyone step on his blue suede shoes.

"Ma'am?" he said.

"That's an Elvis song," I explained.

"Do I need those kind of shoes to go with my hair?" he asked.

"Oh, no, son, I think the hair and sideburns are plenty," I said.

"Thank you, thank you, very much," he said in character and happily went to school.

He reported back later that his hand hurt from signing autographs, and he had to employ several bodyguards to keep the groupie girls away. His teacher wrote me that he entered the classroom and said, "I have a comb, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Perhaps my daughter and husband were right. Perhaps the wig was silly for me to buy, but after all, doesn't everyone deserve to be a king for the day -- especially when you are 8 years old?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Elvis and the mythical creature

Bear with me, gentle readers (I've always wanted to say that). I have been asked to write a column for my local paper. It will debut next week, and I have two written, which I will post here ASAP. Btw, my first two are on Elvis and the mythical creature I'm married to, though not necessarily in that order. Once I get my column up and running, I will fill in here with shorter, daily(ish) blogs, I promise.