Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Little Introduction

How is it that plans which sound so easy in the imagining stage turn into such brick walls at the moment of execution?

It’s my intention, instead of sitting here moping in the doldrums, to get busy and record the memories, documentation and even the family’s ephemera I’ve recently found after the passing of my aunt last month. For one thing, it’s always more therapeutic to be busy about a project than to just sit in the shadows and sink further into depression. At least for me.

What I didn’t anticipate, today, was body-slamming full force into something that feels suspiciously like a brick wall. This was not something I expected. I’ve sat, staring at the blank “page” on my computer’s word processing program, for far too long.

So my proposal, at least at this delayed point, is to make short work of proper introductions, so I may move beyond this roadblock and get on with the getting on of being productive. (Got that?)

A short introduction would be quite suitable, when it comes to meeting someone like my aunt. After all, she was quite short, herself, standing only four feet ten in her better moments. She took on that big world out there by determination, discipline and constancy tempered by a cheery disposition. She was always smiling. Always engaging. Always ready to find some common ground to gain access to your world, so you could be a friend in her world.

That was probably a wise strategy for someone as diminutive as she was.

She and my mother were children of the Great Depression. As much as they were opposites, they shared a common heritage. The moving from job to job, state to state—anywhere my grandfather could find work, because he refused to stand in those “soup lines”—brought these two children from school district to school district, state to state, with a long-distance move once every year or so. The family lived in Florida, Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Colorado—and then, finally, Columbus, Ohio, where it seemed the economic pressure was, at last, over, and life could settle down to a “normal” these children had never yet known.

In that more stable home environment, my aunt completed high school—attending what is now the “old” North High in Columbus—and then, as unusual as it was in those times for women, went on to college. She graduated from Ohio State University in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science, now prepared to enter the world of education, herself.

I don’t remember where she held her first teaching job—she told me once, and perhaps I’ll discover it in those family papers I now possess—but I do remember hearing how scared she was, beginning that new job. She was teaching in a rural school district—I seem to remember it was some place near Mansfield—and she told me about those “big strapping teenage boys” and how she would “somehow” have to make them behave. She told me, all she could do was pray and ask God to tell her what to do. She was tiny, all right, but more than that, she was tiny in her own eyes.

She found a way to overcome that fear embedded in her frame. Perhaps thanks to the “Southern hospitality” gene she certainly inherited from my grandfather, she found a way to be herself by being friendly—and firm with a smile, when the need demanded it.

Eventually, my aunt found a teaching position closer to home, and returned to the Columbus Unified School District, where she taught that 1950s-style “home economics” class until the subject became extinct in the wake of politically-correct curricula. By then, thankfully, she had returned to school, obtained her Master of Education and focused on work in the school’s library.

Even after “retiring” from full time work, she continued working as a substitute teacher. If I’m not mistaken, she subbed right up until turning eighty. And after that? I don’t think this family knew the meaning of the word, “retirement.” She found another part time job to keep herself involved in community life, in addition to volunteer work. She was too much of a people person to drop out of life just because of reaching a magic number.

It was interesting, during visitation and after my aunt’s funeral, to meet her friends and neighbors—some of whom remembered having her as a teacher, some who were fellow teachers along with her. They’d mention her cheerfulness, perpetual energy, outgoing nature.

Just the way I’ve always known her.

Photograph, above: Sara Jacqueline Daviswho would never own up to that "Sara" if she could help it, and preferred the nickname "Jackie"in a school portrait dated 1986. Where did that red hair come from? I have no idea; she was always an understated blonde. I only stumbled upon that photograph last month; a new discovery for me.


  1. Replies
    1. Glad you came by to meet her, Colleen! Thanks for stopping by and chatting...

  2. What a nice story about your aunt. She has a remarkable legacy. One to definitely be emulated!

    1. Yes, Nancy, I agree: one to be emulated. What makes it all so much more singular was that those qualities were hidden in a demure setting. She was not one to call attention to herself, but just kept going, day in and day out, with a disciplined constancy.

  3. So she was a teacher and had a great work ethic..and that red hair was beautiful! Perhaps it was a short lived rinse. It is nice to have a face to go with the name:)

    1. Perhaps it was a rinse, Far Side. Funny thing is, I don't recall ever seeing her with that hair color. She seemed ageless--always looked the same. Finding this photo was quite a surprise for me.

  4. She sounds like my g-grandmother (from what I've been told) - short, very nice, but not someone to mess with (she killed rattlesnakes with a garden hoe).

    1. Oh, my, Iggy! She sounds indomitable! Good for her!


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