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DRIVE me to such a drastic and unusual act, you probably would have found a way to retire more often. At any rate, if in contrast to your wisdom, maturity, and noble teaching record, the following reminiscences sound a little young and immature and the facts a little exaggerated, just remember I'm writing from the Pacific Northwest, and being wet behind the ears -- or being all wet -- comes with the territory. Mom, you triumphed in juggling work and family responsibilities long before they had entire magazines on the subject. I never wearied of those Thursday evening chicken pot pies when you were working toward your master's, because you had already mastered the great art of making every supper taste good by providing it with love.
When I grew old enough to take Home Ec. in school and cooking became an adventure, I never realized that my well-intentioned efforts to give you occasional nights off proved even more of an adventure for you. I never had to do the dishes on those nights, because by the time I had supper ready to serve, it was already past my bedtime.
When you began student teaching, your miseries were our miseries. Each afternoon, we three kids eagerly clustered around you in anticipation of more stories about the incredible Miss Maloney -- how she picked up poor little boys by their crew cuts and dished out assignments faster than you could grade them.
As far as I can remember, my only regret concerning your teaching career was your timing. Had you started just one year earlier, I would have had access to the answers in your teacher's editions for all of my fourth-grade texts.
When, in fifth grade, I was unexpectedly transferred to Jones School, I couldn't ride to Crisman with you as we had planned. Leaving me home alone for even a short while each morning went against your grain, but you poured as much love into breakfast and other morning preparations as you could. Then, before driving off, you carefully wound and set an alarm clock that faithfully signaled when it was time for me to leave the house for school.
It wasn't long before you received an education about mornings in other people's homes. I couldn't comprehend the stories you told about the little ones in your class who readied themselves for school without so much as a glimpse of a parent in the morning. To me, part of the very definition of ``parent'' was one who started his or her kids' days off with love and cheerful guidance.
Nights when you weren't grading papers, you'd fall asleep on the sofa in front of the TV, chagrined to find when you finally woke up that you'd missed the end of some show and slept through the weather. But you were always up early the next morning to get us, as well as yourself, ready for school, and you even planned surprises just for fun. Our friends thought it was peculiar, but we thought it was great, the time you cooked us hamburgers for breakfast. The morning you served us apple pie a
la mode, however, we were the envied talk of the school!
It was an exciting day when you discovered the trick of filling the freezer with sandwiches on Sunday evening to eliminate one weekday morning responsibility. It wasn't quite as exciting to discover in those first few sandwiches what happens to lettuce when it comes out of the freezer, but you quickly adapted to keeping the leafy greens out until the sandwich was on its way into the lunch sack.
Nonetheless, if having to peel soggy lettuce out of sandwiches in the school lunchroom was the worst thing to befall me for having a schoolteacher for a mother, I can only say: Mom, you done real good.
Now, I know how sad you must have been administering your last true-and-false test, so I've prepared one for you. You have one minute to answer the questions. Please write out the whole word ``True'' or the whole word ``False.'' _____ 1. I really liked your flat, rocklike brownies when you were learning how to cook, Jennifer, just as much as I said I did. _____ 2. Of course I was serious when I said I'd teach only a few years in order to help you kids through college. _____ 3. Christmas won't seem like Christmas without receiving 15 bottles of Avon perfume, half a dozen candles, and several unidentifiable objects. _____ 4. I still can't imagine what prompted Miss Maloney to raise her voice in her classroom of 30 fourth-grade students.
Please answer every question and send the test back to me by return mail. But don't worry about your grade. You've already got an ``A+'' in my book. Joyfully, Jennifer