Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yes, thank you!

My 4th grade teacher was Mrs. Marsh. An older woman, with large grey-blonde curled hair and a passion for big rings, funky jewelry, and cool clothes. She was the first teacher I really looked up to in my elementary school experience. The first teacher I saw as a person—someone who had her own life outside the classroom—who was full of interesting stories, experiences, foibles, etc. I had the understanding I would never fully know her, and yet I yearned to, which intrigued me greatly.

There is a story she told us once that has always stuck in my head. I can't remember if it was part of a regular lesson or just one of those anecdotal tangents she often went on, but she was telling us of a time she was at a friend's house for tea. Her friend had made chocolate chip cookies for the occasion, and Mrs. Marsh said they were very, very yummy.

Once she had finished her first cookie, her friend offered her the plate and asked if she would like another. Mrs. Marsh said her initial instinct was to say "No, thank you" because we are taught not to be greedy and not to take too many of something and (as women) not to eat too much. It's polite to refuse, essentially.

And Mrs. Marsh, in her wisdom said, "Isn't that ridiculous? If I want another cookie, shouldn't I take another cookie? They were really good, and I wanted another one. So I said, 'Yes, I will have another. Thank you,' and I took the cookie. It was delicious!"

Mrs. Marsh was the first person who introduced me to the concept of carpe diem. She was the first vibrant adult I ever met in school, and I adored her attitude toward enjoying all the best things life had to offer—without shame or regret or fear or timidity—just reach in there and have a good time (provided you aren't hurting anyone, including yourself). A sort of mix of responsibility and gusto I still admire when I see it in other people, and which I strive to embrace for myself.

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