Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Get It Now

I was active in our school’s theater arts program all throughout high school. The program was run by a very pretty but tough-as-nails teacher, “Ms. Q.” Ms. Q had taught at the school for years, and was in her very late 40s by the time I was in 9th grade. She was both feared and respected by most of us I would guess, and certainly by me.

Even though she lived a good hour and a half away from our school, she was there day in and day out, holding rehearsals till after 11 at night and working us to death on the weekends. Pleasing her was not an easy feat. She took note of every mistake we made and held us to answer for each, through yelling or not -- it didn’t really matter. Sometimes you could hear her screaming at some poor bloke even if you were in a closed classroom down the hallway. Sometimes she’d just lose it and go off on everyone and everything, and lord help you if you were there to hear it.

For the most part though, I think we all knew that she did these things because she had high standards and wanted us to be the best. And if you heard her chuckling during your comedic performance it made you feel like a million bucks. If she ever told you you did a good job, you felt like a billion bucks.

I really, really liked her.

Of course, it wasn’t “cool” to like Ms. Q, so when my classmates would go off on her, I’d partake dutifully, dramatically recounting her latest crazy antics or adding my two cents to the Ms. Q topic du jour.

But the truth was, she was always exceedingly nice to me. I always felt like an outcast at the school and particularly in the theater department, so when I received approval or accolades from Ms. Q, it always meant a lot to me, more than she could have possibly known. Sometimes, during some down-time, I’d be in her office doing some work for her, and she’d let out a joke or a laugh or a warm smile or talk about her husband, and I thought to myself, “She’s really a sweetheart and a nice person, everyone’s so wrong about her.”

But there was one thing that I always thought was very strange – she didn’t like babies or kids. When former students would come visit her with their babies, my friends and I would ooh and ahh and coo over them, but Ms. Q would be stand-offish, with a look of aversion on her face that said, “Eww, babies? Weird! Gross!” Same with other teachers – they’d bring their newborns or little kids to show off, and while us students would gather round to see and maybe get to touch the cute things, Ms. Q seemed revolted. Which only lent credence to her reputation of being a cold bitch.

When it was my graduation day, I gave her a small gift (I think it was something stupid like candles), my way of letting her know that despite my troublesome ways, I really loved her and very much appreciated all she’d done for me. A short time later, I received a very sweet thank-you card from her. In it, she said “you are my children and it is always hard to say goodbye…”

A couple years later, I heard that Ms. Q had quit teaching and had given birth to twins.

Strange, I thought – she hated kids! Huh? Well, good for her, that’s pretty cool! (IVF and fertility treatments were nowhere near my radar or knowledge at that time, so I just thought hey, she got knocked up at that age, rad!)

Now, of course, it all makes sense. All of it. I get it now. I think back and feel like I know her better now than I ever did then. My heart hurts for that teacher of all those years ago. For how much pain she must have been in. How she must have had failed treatment after treatment all that time. For the jabs to her heart when her colleagues popped out babies and went on and on about them while they were all hanging out in the teachers’ lounge. How she said we were her “children.” How she must have gotten the bfn calls while she was at school. Why she’d lose it sometimes. Why she acted like she didn’t like babies. And how incredibly happy she must have been to finally become a mother.

I never thought I’d ever have anything whatsoever in common with Ms. Q. Kind of weird that now I do.