Sunday, July 23, 2017

Buttercup



Buttercup
By: Kelli J Gavin

I saw something the other morning that asked who was your favorite teacher and why? I pondered that question for a good hour. It isn't that I didn't have a favorite teacher. Some were just more memorable than the rest. It is those weird, heart wrenching, special, even socially awkward memories that are associated with each teacher.
The elderly psychology teacher who thanked me for making an asserted effort to listen, make intentional eye contact and actually answer questions all semester long. He thanked me for engaging him in conversations and asking questions when no one else did. ---Then he said he was actually a little concerned about my eye contact because he didn't believe anyone had ever looked at him like that before.
Or the Chemistry teacher who told me to drop out of second semester because I wouldn't pass. And she wanted to make sure that I knew how amazing she was because she went out of her way to reserve a spot in an Interior Design Class for me for second semester.
But the prize of most memorable teacher went to my high school Biology teacher. I seemed to ruffle his feathers. I was a good student, paid attention, asked questions and stayed involved in group activities and projects.
But it was as if  I never fell into a groove with him. I remember trying to even model questions and interactions the way my friends did in hopes that the teacher/student relationship wouldn't be so strained. In the depths of one of these "modeled interactions" he learned over and whispered, "Stop trying so hard." I didn't talk to him for two weeks.
Then one day, an unfortunate argument occurred between a classmate and I. (I got the part she wanted in the school play) She finally walked away, and I crumbled into a heap of tears. I tried to just disappear into my seat. "Chin up buttercup. You got the part because you deserved it. Never cry over something you have earned." He tapped the table in front of me with his pencil and smiled and walked away.
All the harsh words, awkward interactions, looks of what I believed to be disdain, and then this? This? Buttercup? I deserved it? I earned it? The next day I saw him in the hall as I passed his classroom on my way to dreaded math and he said, "Come here Buttercup." Again. Buttercup. I walked over, thanked him for his encouraging words the day before and told him I felt better. He kind of crinkled up his face and replied, "I didn't say what I said to make you feel better. I said that because it was true. " No one would ever accuse him of being a warm and fuzzy kind of guy.
He and I continued in the weirdness for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, we had an amazing conversation about my goals after graduating. I shared with him my lofty dreams. He was an amazing listener when he wanted to be. And then I thought it was the perfect time to ask him why he had always called me Buttercup.
"Buttercup?" Yes. Buttercup. " I don't call you Buttercup." I stared at him. I had began to think of this as a term of endearment. A nick name per se.
"I did have a cow named Buttercup when I was young. She was the most stubborn and difficult animal I had ever worked with. My dad hated her and I am sure she was up next for the winter. But my dad always said we didn't eat the ones we named. My mom called me Buttercup when I was little. I named that stubborn cow Buttercup so my dad wouldn't consider her food for winter. " Silence. Crickets. Worse than crickets.
I made him nervous, he started to fidget with that stupid  pencil he was always holding. I stood up, hugged him and thanked him for always listening and asking great questions. I told him his words of encouragement meant a lot and that he was one of the teachers that made a difference to me in high school. And as we parted, I turned back and smirked, "Thanks for everything Buttercup."
And that my friends is the the story of Buttercup. Maybe not the whole story. But a story for another time.  The other parts have changed, ever so slightly to fit comfortably in my memory. That is where they will stay for now.

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