Teaching Over the Long Haul: I See ‘Them’ Everywhere


It’s the weirdest job in the world that way…You’ll see ‘them’ huddled in a corner of a supermarket, whispering to a friend, their faces betraying their interest, as they watch, and I inwardly ask:  “Which one is he or she?”

You see, I had most of them when they were 12.. 13..14…so they’ve changed a lot over the years.

While I haven’t changed that much…at least as an adult.  Sure I’ve gotten a lot older, but they can still make out the semblance of my former look, while I don’t have a clue who they are…in most cases. 

Adolescence-to-adulthood is a much more dramatic change.

So, this past Wednesday, in the cafeteria of Rhode Island Hospital, while I waited in line to buy a yogurt parfait, I heard a nearby young woman say:  “You’re Mrs. Allen, and you were my English teacher.” I gotta say:  “I was stunned.”  You see, I was Mrs. Allen when I was 25 , up to when I was 28.  Then I ditched that name along with that husband (in a hotly-contested divorce he didn’t want.)

Even more amazing, I said:  “And you’re Mena Orabona.” “I remember you!” (that’s she wearing the smashing coral blouse in photo above.) 

We both laughed while the line of witnesses took it all in. To think, 40 years had gone by and now the two of us were on either side of the check-out line, at Rhode Island’s biggest hospital, suddenly blipped back in time to Hugh B. Bain Jr. High where she was a student and I was her English teacher.

We hugged and I asked her what she was now doing, to which she answered: “I’m secretary to the Chief of Medicine.”

I told her my husband and I were there to promote our Grandpa and the Truck books for little ones.  Then, I invited her over, to meet my husband (not the Allen one.)

She did…we laughed some more..and then we parted.  But I told her our seeing each other again better not be another 40 years in coming, because I won’t be around…107 isn’t a figure of longevity in my family.

I snapped her picture to prove:  If you’re a teacher, you never know when or where you’ll see former students. They’re all about…and when I see one in a corner sheepishly giggling to a friend or watching me intently, I just know I’m seeing one of the vast number I taught for 30 years.

But they always have the advantage, for I’m not sure who they are ‘til I ask.

Here’s a photo of our set-up in the cafeteria of Rhode Island Hospital.  Following that, we went over to do a reading at Hasbro’s Children’s Hospital, to little ones who needed something to brighten their otherwise-tough day. We gave them each a Grandpa and the Truck book, too, autographed and personalized.

Now, my only question:  “If Mena recognized me right away, does that mean I looked 67 when I taught her so many years ago?”  Just wondering…..


About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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