When I struggle with phrasing, expressing my thoughts, or finding the right word, I call on Miss Marjorie Fay.
Miss Fay was my senior high school English teacher. She was the very picture of the old maid school teacher with her floral cotton dresses, proper shoes and white hair.
Miss Fay was not hip. She was not our friend. Yet, we “college prep” seniors loved her and enjoyed her classes. We never smirked or rolled our eyes when she acted out scenes or was overly dramatic to make a point. We laughed out loud. We had fun. We knew we were in caring hands as she prepared us for the larger world.
She pushed us to write better and to think more clearly. I remember endless admonitions to use “concrete details” in our descriptions.
She made us memorize long poems and recite them before the class.
At the time I hated it. Now I thank her as I spontaneously recall a few lines of a poem or a play.
Remembering particular lines from literature enriches the moment for me as I contemplate a beautiful scene, return from a trip, or reunite with a long-lost friend. It often signals a secret shorthand with someone, even a stranger, who can relate to that poem, play or novel.
I often say to myself “This is my own, my native land” when my plane lands in the USA.
Or, “never send to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” as we face another tragedy in our violent world.
We loved her dramatic readings especially from Shakespeare.
Our favorite was the banquet scene in Macbeth when the ghost of Banquo appears. She would shake her white hair, stare over our heads with the words, “Thou canst not say I did it: never shake Thy gory locks at me.”
Farewell Miss Fay
I recall her last time with us. It was graduation.
We were lined up sweltering in our caps and gowns. She floated into the hallway cooing at her chosen few.
Her signature floral dress was silk and her Sunday shoes were spotless. I was amazed to see her wearing a large brimmed hat.
Her outfit, especially the hat, reassured us that our graduation was special and that we too were special.
Her appearance and her behavior were somehow giddy and girlish. For the first time and for a brief moment, I considered her as a person with a life outside the classroom.
I never knew her real last name, her age, her marital status.
I never saw her again after graduation.
I remember her as a wonderful teacher to whom I am indebted.
Thank you Miss Marjorie Fay.