Day of Rest

skyfeathersMy mom emailed me yesterday and told me my second grade teacher died. I was a lucky kid. I grew up in a really small town in a rural area of Oregon, but was part of a really big family. My mom is the second oldest of 12 kids and my grandparents had a farm. We all lived near each other and spent a lot of time together. I was as close to my cousins as most people are with their siblings. I grew up with kids whose parents had been friends with my parents growing up. Except for the first few years, I lived in the same house until I moved out at 18. I joke that it was as close to growing up in Mayberry as you could get.

For being a small rural town, I had an amazing school with incredible teachers. Mrs. Simmons was one of the best. We did a lot of writing and creating in her class, took lots of fun field trips, and she was so encouraging, calling me her “little author.” There was a loft bed in the corner of the classroom painted to look like a tree. I spent many hours there reading — I was working my way through the entire library, book by book. It was that same year that I learned that being a writer was a job, one I could grow up and have. Once I knew that, I knew who I was.

I was lucky enough to run into Esther a few years ago. I was home visiting, and as my mom and I came out of the post office, there she was. My mom said hello to her and something like “do you know who this is?” as she gestured towards me and I smiled. To me she looked almost exactly the same, older sure but totally recognizable, but for her it must have been so strange, this little girl she used to know standing before her suddenly a woman in her 40s. I got to tell her that I’m a teacher and a writer, and she seemed so pleased by that. I’m so sad she’s gone, but glad I got to see her again, and hope that she knew the good she’d done, for me and all the other kids lucky enough to be her students, to be taught and loved by her.

I knew as a six year old I wanted to be a writer. I was so sure, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted, but it’s taken a really really long time to land. This morning I was listening to an episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new podcast, Magic Lessons. She was talking about being a late bloomer, and mentioned something poet Sharon Olds said, “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.” I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up for “wasting” the years between second grade and 43, but I got it all wrong. I am so lucky to have ever bloomed at all.

6 thoughts on “Day of Rest

  1. Jodi Carter

    Loved reading this. As an elementary teacher, it is a good reminder of the impact I can have with my choice of words and the experiences I offer my students. While I feel like I have less choice in my classroom now (this will be year #30 and the standards-driven curriculum doesn’t offer much ‘free space’ it does remind me I need to continue to work hard for offering authentic opportunities that nurture the gifts my students have.

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      Bless you, Jodi — for all you’ve certainly done for “your kids,” and for sticking it out as things have taken such a rough turn. I’m so glad I’ve been able to tell some of my teachers from my adult perspective what their good work has meant to my life, but there are so many I haven’t been able to tell, who I may never get to tell. I am certain you have students who feel the same, but might never get the chance to say so directly to you. I want to share with you also a story my friend Kirsten posted today ( As a teacher myself, it really touched me, seems related to all kinds of teaching.

      “A guy named Michael was in for a gang-related murder and used to come to the classes. But during the yoga, he would never really do the yoga very much. During the meditation, he would just kind of look around. He wasn’t very involved. But afterwards he gave me a big hug and always thanked me. Over the weeks I started to get frustrated with him. Like, ‘Why do you show up to class if you’re not interested in practicing?’ And then one day it hit me: he didn’t come for the meditation or the yoga. He came for the hug….

      If you never formally sit and close your eyes and meditate, but [if] you’re creating a space that supports people where compassion can come forward and where they feel accepted, that is actually more the central issue, and really maybe the heart of contemplative practice.” ❤

  2. Sunny

    Wow! This made my heart swell and my eyes leak a little. The part about blooming at all…that definitely hit me. I too grew up in rural Oregon…smaller family but my cousins are my siblings for which I am eternally grateful as I don’t have any true siblings. And, I can look to a number of teachers that shared the love of science for supporting me and giving me the solid ground for what I do now as an adult.


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