Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Bancroft Library Oral History interviews ...

After writing that last post I spent much of the afternoon reading back through the binder that holds the oral history done in October of 2002. I found the affirmation I was looking for -- some place in the re-telling of my life story that confirms a high place. I noticed immediately the huge difference between the written and spoken word. There is little coherence -- the words spill over themselves in the telling. Interesting:

Wilmot (interviewer)

So when you were in high school, do you have any memories of teachers who especially influenced you? You told me that at one time you were reading a lot, I'm wondering ---

This one teacher would light up. I could see his face light up when we'd meet in the hall and he would ask me challenging questions. And to this day, I can remember a long exciting debate in his public speaking class -- about euthanasia -- and I remember that the kids went off -- as people do -- into that fine line between euthanasia, murder -- the risk of people being intentionally eliminated. I remember raising my hand and waving it wildly to get his attention and having him ignore me for a
long time and knowing that he knew that I knew but that it wasn't time yet to let my comment into the room. And I was aware, even as -- I guess I was a sophomore at the time -- I can remember being -- having a sense of being on the same level with this teacher -- because somehow we both knew that I knew. Also that I was cooperating with his game about not saying it yet, and finally toward the end of the debate of having him--or maybe it wasn't a debate but rather a discussion -- and having him point to me so that I could say, "...but you're no longer talking about euthanasia. You're talking about murder," and having him grin and say (finally!) "Ah-ha!" And having this sense for the first time of being at an adult's intellectual level and how freeing that was for a kid. I looked for these moments in time with my own kids; those moments when they hit something that we could relate to as equals; that were new for me and breakthroughs for them. I wonder sometimes -- in teaching -- how often people are aware of how great that is when you hit it? Mr. McLaughlin was probably the only high school teacher besides my drama teacher that I remember now. I'd know him today were I to meet him in the hallway. I remember her because she was too fearful of criticism from parents if she allowed me to play Maria in Maxwell Anderson's Winterset with a white male student playing the lead. She kept me in after the bell rang to apologize for her lack of courage but lauded my reading of the scene.

Found myself grinning silently as I read this today -- realizing that my face had softened and that somewhere inside that little girl still has a sense of knowing ... and that most of that comes through intuition -- a kind of sixth sense that came into the world with me. The confirmation for even the most seemingly outrageous and risky civil actions comes from that place inside. The only time I feel lost is when the world crowds out the sounds of my own heartbeat... the drumbeat to which I've always marched .. even when I can't see those who march with me.

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