I graduated from Joseph High School in 1981 and moved away to go to college, in fact many colleges: a BS from Oregon State, an MS from the University of Hawaii, a PhD from Penn State and a MA from Pacific University.
Darlene Turner used to ask me when I would return to see my parents, "Are you still in school?" And she had a point. The other day my daughter Sarah was complaining about seventh grade and I told her to just wait until the 27th grade, that is when things get really rough.
For the last three years, I've been managing a neuroscience lab at OHSU. From all this education, the most important lesson I've learned is that cleaning up monkey poop doesn't require a PhD (who'd a thunk!).
Anyway, I'm writing about a high school teacher who played a big role in my life, my Spanish teacher, Anna Mary Swafford.
Mrs. Swafford was a kind and considerate teacher, she knew my precociousness and would call me "Cabeza de Calabaza", pumpkin head. I took her class all four years, even though senior year was simply Lisa Dawson and myself locked up in the library translating Don Quixote, word for word (I still don't know what the book is about).
Mrs. Swafford was also brave. The Spanish Club had cookie sales for over a year to afford a trip to Mexico City. With a friend of hers, she chaperoned the club of about 10 students to Mexico City. The jolt from a town of 600 to a city of 20 million couldn't have been more electric. I had never seen so many Volkswagen bugs, a slug bug heaven. I was also amazed that the vending machines sold beer and it was legal for us to drink (which of course we didn't, kids).
I remember the Sun Pyramids, Taxco (the silver city), the Folklore Ballet and Jeff Marks jumping out of the lobby with a machete he bought at Taxco yelling "HAYAA." Jeff and Kevin McCadden paid the price by eating corn-on-the-cob sold on the street and getting Montezuma's revenge.
I think Mrs. Swafford's greatest disappoint in me came on that trip. She took us all out to breakfast and told us to order anything we wanted. She was waiting to hear orders for "Huevos Rancheros" with "leche," or maybe "jugo de Naranja". When I ordered "A banana split," I knew I owned my nickname.
I was still in college when Mrs. Swafford died and never got to pay my respects. And that is why I was so thrilled to find a treasure reminding me of her.
As a hobby, I collect books that people toss away at Goodwill. The books arrive in giant bins measuring 3 feet by 20 feet and they are just tossed in there ready for my dumpster diving.
I love old yearbooks and found one in really good condition from Willamette University dated 1929. As an added bonus, there were photos from a recent reunion the class had in 1984, their 55th class reunion. And in that photo I recognized someone dear to me (see the attached photos). And so I thought I would send this letter to the editor and remind every high school teacher that their students treasure them (maybe not today, but in another 30 years), just as I treasure Anna Maria Swafford.
Con mucho gusto, Anna. Una lengua nunca es suficiente.