to celebrate a woman

Today is International Women's Day (IWD) and as I reflect on what that means I think of the incredible women that are in my life. I have a mom that sacrificed an innumerable amount of things in order to be a stay-at-home mom and raise us. And when I went to school, she went to work. I have incredible sisters that are such role models, three of them went to an Ivy League school on scholarships, and one went almost all the way through a degree program and then figured out that that wasn't at all what she wanted to do so she quit. That took real balls. Woman balls.

I have an aunt that basically ran her hometown, and another one that helps addicts to transition into a life of wholeness. She was once asked what she did time for because everyone that she worked with had a record, I think she made something up because she didn't want to seem superior to them. I have another aunt that works with disabled children, an often back-breaking and thankless job. I'm basically surrounded by incredible women.

This morning when reflecting on IWD I had many options to choose from for who to write about and my kindergarten, grade 1 and 2 teacher came to mind.

Yes, she taught me all three years, I grew up in a small town and there were only three of us in my grade, I think the largest my homeroom got was 20 kids spread throughout three grades. I'm sure my teacher had taught in a one room school early on in her career. And she probably did very well at it. I cannot remember a time where I felt left behind or forgotten in her class. Sure, there were only a few of us, but she had to deal with Kindergarteners and my memory is pretty foggy of that time and starts to clear up as I aged in her class. Most of my memories of those years have her in the periphery, never far from my up-stretched and questioning arm.

She was a powerful story teller. She would use the same story every Hallowe'en and every time she would scare you at that one part. She didn't just read books to the class, she would act using only her voice and keep you on the edge of your carpet square in the quiet corner. Riveting. She made Dick and Jane seem like a mystery novel.

If you asked her to get a drink of water to cure your hiccups she would focus in on you with a terrifying laser stare and talk to you about something else, it was unnerving, but then she would delightedly pull away and smile as she said "do you have the hiccups anymore?" Which, you wouldn't because she scared them right out of you, but now you might need to go to the bathroom and check your pants.

I attempted to do this as a teacher, but my students didn't fear me enough, they would just stare at me hiccupping and wondering what the heck I was doing trying to talk to them about horses. She must have liked horses, she used them a lot as a cure for hiccups. Or maybe she thought I liked horses? Anyway, she is the only person I've ever encountered that can cure a kid's hiccups without breathing techniques or water.

She was the whole school's French teacher. She used a puppet, Pirouli, to teach us all the vocabulary and songs. His cone head and rouge cheeks are etched in my memory, as well as his song. Ah zut! remains one of my favourite French sayings, even though it is probably rarely spoken in Quebec or France. She used to say it with such fervour when she made a mistake.

She was the reason I wanted to be a teacher. Before her I wanted to be a lawyer, and, in looking back it was her drill sergeant ways that put me on the Education path. She was the most administrative person, you would give her an assignment and have it back in minutes with the corrections that you had to make. And somehow she kept track of that, you couldn't get away with, say, stuffing your old math tests in the back of your desk, not that I would know anything about that sort of thing.

She is also the first woman that I knew to have two careers and two loves. She loved Jesus, and she loved children. She was a nun and an elementary teacher and she loved both equally. I wonder if her love for teaching is what pushed her into the Sisterhood? When she would have started teaching married and pregnant women weren't allowed to teach, only single women.

I don't know if I can convey everything that she now means to me. I have this image in my head of her walking down the hallway and shocking me. She did a heel click. This tiny woman that I thought was a thousand years old, sprung up in the air, brown skirt to her calves, orthotic black shoes, white polyester blouse and a brown vest over top, leapt up in the air and clicked her heels together. Twice. In one jump. I still can't do that.

She loved what she did, and who she did it for. She was strong, direct, quirky, intelligent, and in love with life. She was a great woman.

C'est tout. 


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