Saturday, 13 January 2018

I got a card in the mail this week...

I got a lovely birthday card in the mail this week.
The card I got this week.

You are saying to yourself, "Big Deal.  We all have a birthday every year.  We all get birthday cards.  What, is she fishing for birthday wishes?"  Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, because this story goes back a long way.  Stick with me.  I have a point, I promise.

On my 15th Birthday, I was in Grade ten and sitting in my homeroom class.  I'm not sure if many schools still have homeroom classes.  Everyone had a homeroom where you would start your day.  It was about 15 minutes long and your attendance would be taken, opening routines like O Canada and announcements would occur. On this day, my homeroom teacher handed me an envelope that had been placed in his mailbox.  I opened it and found a birthday card, addressed to me and simply signed: "A fellow Capricorn."

Who had sent it?  After years of reading the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Trixie Beldon books, I sensed a mystery.  The game was afoot!  It was not from my family.  They had given me their cards that morning at breakfast.  My friends had already decorated my locker and given me their cards that morning.  And the way it was signed?  That had to be a clue.  How many other Capricorns did I know who would have access to the school mailboxes?  All morning, while going through the motions of my classes, I was employing my powers of deduction, trying to figure out this enigma.   I mentioned it to my friends.  They looked as surprised as I was and had no answers for me.  Lunch came and went and I was still stumped.

That afternoon, as I was walking into my Grade Ten Science class, my teacher, Mr. Tony Stacpoole, wished me a Happy Birthday.  I wished him a Happy Birthday too.


I instantly flashed back to the exact day one year ago, when I was in Mr. Stacpoole's Grade Nine Science class and my friends and I were discussing my Birthday (I was blessed to have him for Science two years in a row). Mr. Stacpoole overheard us and asked if it was my birthday. When I told him it was, he said, "Me too!"

"A fellow Capricorn."  Aha!

I took the card out of my binder, showed it to him and asked if he had sent it.  He smiled and said he had, "because us January the 10thers need to stick together."  I thanked him and thought how nice it was that he had remembered our joint birthday and taken the time to send me a card.  It really made my day.

The next year, Grade 11, I did not have Mr. Stacpoole for any classes, but I remembered how good it felt to get that card from him and thought I would drop a birthday card in his mailbox, hopefully making his day.  So, that morning, I went to the mailboxes first thing, dropped off that card and got myself to homeroom.  As you are reading this, you can probably guess what happened next, but at the time, I had no expectations.  I sat down in homeroom and was handed another birthday card from, you guessed it, "A fellow Capricorn."  I was thrilled, and a little surprised.  I was no longer in his class and I would not be lucky enough to be in one of his classes the rest of my High School career.  That he remembered our birthday and sent me a card, when I was not even his student anymore was really very touching.

We exchanged cards again when I was in Grade 12 and Grade 13 (that was the last year we actually called it Grade 13 - it became OAC after that).  With Graduation, I figured that was probably the end of the story, but sure enough, a card from Mr. Stacpoole arrived in my parent's mailbox for me my first year of University.  And we continued to exchange birthday cards the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that....  As Paul Harvey would say, "and now you know, the rest of the story."

I just did the math.  That beautiful birthday card that I got from Mr. Stacpoole this week is the 33rd birthday card he has sent me since Grade Ten.

So here's where I get to the point, as promised.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my #OneWordOnt 2018 choice of "Relationships".  When I opened my birthday card from my fellow January 10ther this week, I started thinking about what a great example of relationship building this card represents.  I was in Mr. Stacpoole's class for two years.  I cannot say I remember a single amazing lesson plan - although I'm sure there were many because he was an outstanding teacher.  I do remember frog disection day - although more for the smell of formaldehyde and the feeling of cutting through the frog's skin (it was like a rubbery leather).  I also remember he had a funny joke to help us remember what mitosis was.  I don't remember the joke, but the punch line was "and he says, that's why my toes is cold!"  To this day, I can't see a picture of cells dividing without suddenly hearing him say that in my head.

What I do remember about Mr. Stacpoole's Science class is his soft voice, his towering height, his infectious laugh and the way he treated everyone of his students.  He valued our opinions and our thoughts.  He made us laugh and laughed with us.  He built relationships and community in that class and that is part of the reason we all learned so much from him.

How lucky was I to have had a role model like this?  As the year progresses, and I continue to reflect on my #OneWord focus on Relationships, I will keep his example in mind.

33 Years and counting of Birthday cards...that's a tough (but worthwhile) act to follow.

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