yours, tiramisu

⭐ gracias, señora

How prettily we swim.
Not in water.
Not on land.
But in love.
~ Gertrude Stein

I'm getting brunch with my high school Spanish teacher tomorrow! I haven't seen her since August, and we don't talk nearly as much as we used to (pretty much every school day for two years straight), so I'm excited to catch up with her. I consider her one of my dearest friends, and she's probably the closest thing I have to a mother figure in my life1.

We met when I was assigned to her Spanish 4 Honors class in my junior (third) year of high school. Because Spanish always came easily to me, I quickly became what you might call a teacher's pet: I got to pick my own seat2 before she made the seating chart, breakfast would mysteriously show up on my desk when class came around, and she would "forget" to check homework on the rare occasions I hadn't done it. We kept spending time together even after the year (and thus class) ended; I skipped my virtual classes to go chat during her planning period, and she'd take me around like an assistant to the teacher's lounge as she made copies and graded papers. Senior year was a trying time for me, but the hour I spent in her classroom every morning was a comforting constant I could look forward to, not unlike therapy. Since she listened to me with open ears and saw the best in me, I always left her classroom feeling better than before.

I think a lot about how easy it is for people to forget their own charms. I like the way Tim Kreider describes this phenomenon:

“How it could make Diana happy to be around me was mysterious to me, since I was always around me and I was never happy. We always forget the Heisenberg effect of our own presence – that we only ever get to see what other people are like when we’re around. I’d been drawn to her hoping I might absorb some of her radiance, not realizing it was, in part, my own reflected light.”

I've always strived to be this kind of mirror to my friends, reflecting their light back to them and reminding them how special they are, and my Spanish teacher did just that for me. I know she probably dealt with a lot more than she let on to me (the struggle of raising a kid between cultures amid a divorce), but she always put it all aside to earnestly ask me how I was doing and give me her sympathy. She wasn't the type of person to gush, but I could tell from the questions she asked (on anything from lesson plans to how to parent her child) and the soft look on her face when she listened to me that she saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself. That meant a lot for my insecure teenage self, who didn't hear much praise elsewhere.

I don't believe anyone has a more rosy view of who I am as a person. After all, she's only ever seen me in school or over short meals, so it's far from the comprehensive (read: uglier) view of who I am as a person that a partner, family, or friends might be privy to. That being said, she did get a front-row seat to what I think is my greatest trait—my unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She once told me she'd never seen anything like the way my eyes twinkled when I was having fun in class, and that nothing was more satisfying to her as a teacher than watching the my gears spin and click into place in my head as I asked tough questions and grasped grammatical concepts. These days we can speak for hours on end without slipping into English, and my heart swells when she tells people who ask about how we know each other how proud she is of me, not just as a student, but as a person. We must seem like a weird pair in public—a middle-aged Peruvian lady with a boy3 that looks nothing like her and is young enough to be her child, jabbering away in Spanish—the most unlikely of friends.

yours, tiramisú

A lovely text she sent me after our last hangout. Translation:

Hi Misu!!!!
I just received your card, it made me very happy
You are the loveliest student I have had in all my life as a teacher (almost 25 years 🤣)
You write as if you were Hispanic (you are Hispanic at heart)
We must keep in touch, remember that I'm going to take you out to a Peruvian roast chicken restaurant
I haven't put up the decorations you gave me but as soon as I put them up, I'll send you a photo

  1. Not to say my own mother isn't a good one, but she definitely does not play the loving, nurturing role you would expect a mother to.

  2. Which was always the same desk, in the center of the first row, right by her desk so we could chismear (gossip).

  3. I still feel like a boy, even though I am technically a young man now. One of my high school English teachers nicknamed me 'old boy' for my Luddite tendencies (in spite of being the youngest in the class), which is quite literally the opposite of 'young man'. At the end of the day, am I not really just an old boy?

#english #journal #life #spanish