Today, Bob and I made a day of the Dogwood Festival and Earthfest in downtown Knoxville.
Earthfest is always a fun event with bands, food, vendors and artists. It's an interesting crowd too, tending more toward the tie dyed than the buttoned down set, so of course, I feel right at home there.
I ran into several old friends today and I enjoyed catching up with every one of them. But I have to say, the highlight of my day was encountering one of my former Spanish students from Lenoir City High School.
As I rounded a corner, I heard someone say, "Miss de la Garza." I turned around and said, "Oh, hi!" pretending that I knew exactly who I was talking to, though I hadn't the faintest idea. I was wracking my brain as he got out of his chair and began his approach. I suppose my face must have looked as blank as I felt because the next words out of his mouth were, kindly, "You don't recognize me, do you?"
"No," I admitted.
"I'm Justin Harris," he said.
"Justin Harris!," I exclaimed and spontaneously hugged his neck. I was so delighted to see him! Justin was one of my students at Lenoir City High School when I taught there about a zillion years ago. One of my favorite students too. He and another young man named Clay were, I think, my all time favorites out of the hundreds of students I taught over the years.
I was a little shocked when Justin told me he now has a twenty year old daughter--shocked at how old that makes me!
It hardly seems possible that the sixteen year old boy I remember who sat in the back of the room (behind a girl named Laura who was a cheerleader and a gifted language student who went on to become a Spanish teacher herself) could now be the father of a twenty year old woman. But as Justin said to me today, "Do the math! There's nothing unusual about it."
Justin's right, of course. There's nothing unusual about him having a twenty year old daughter. After all, he was a married man of 22 when he became a father.
As Justin and I talked, a good looking young man as tall as Justin joined us. Yes, I had the great pleasure of meeting Justin's fourteen year old son who is a charmer himself. I do believe that if I were still teaching, Justin's son could easily become another one of my favorites.
It's true, teachers DO have favorites. But as I told Justin, I have fond memories of nearly all my students at Lenoir City High School. It's not that all of them were brilliant or even very good students (though many of them were) but they were, by and large, earnest, really nice young people that I liked and respected.
I love seeing my former students, especially as they and I get older. Now that I'm 62 and they are in their forties, when I run into them, it feels as if I'm reconnecting with old friends. I hope they feel similarly about me.