Catching up with old teachers, making new friends and remembering the good stuff

Earlier this year I wrote a column about my favorite teachers, the ones who inspired and shaped me the most.

It was my intention with that column to express my gratitude for those teachers and, hopefully, have at least one of them see it.

In a profession where half the kids curse your name and complain when you give them homework or a bad grade, I figured it was the least I could do to put that good energy out into the universe.

Imagine my genuine surprise when I get contacted by not only one, but two of my former teachers thanking me and expressing interest in catching up.

I was ecstatic. And then nervous. Then a lot more nervous.

Along with a bunch of good qualities that come with being a writer, such as wit, being nosy and knowing more information about things than one would care to, I've also inherited the insecurity of sounding good on paper (at least, most of the time) and being a bumbling mess in person.

The last thing I wanted to happen was to meet these people I've admired for years only to disappoint them now.

Even worse, what if getting to know my former teachers now as "real people" leads me to discover I don't really like them as a person?

I put my neuroses aside and jumped at the chance to meet up with my eighth grade history teacher Mr. Rinehart.

After several months, mostly because I stink at calling people when it's not for work or family, we arranged a lunch last week.

I was surprised to see that after 13, 14 years Mr. Rinehart (who I still have trouble calling by his first name) looked exactly the same. Feeling the insecurities come rushing back, I was then horrified that I look incredibly different.

Glasses and a ponytail (and unfortunately height) have stayed pretty consistent since the eighth grade, but puberty, college and a fast-paced job have changed one or two things about the way I look.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Mr. Rinehart, the teacher, and Bob, the person, are very similar.

He was still easy to talk to and respected what I had to say. He was honest and didn't sugarcoat things, which I always appreciated as an impressionable 13-year-old. More than that, he forced me to look at the bigger picture.

After a few in-depth talks about education, politics and our personal lives, the conversation led to remembering all the little things that make life worthwhile and never losing sight of the good stuff.

Mr. Rinehart said he keeps nearby letters from former students and other things that make him smile, so he can look at them when he needs a pick-me-up.

I'm almost embarrassed to say my column is now a part of that group. I think I'm still under some delusion that only my co-workers, mom and former neighbor (hi, Ms. Mary!) read what I write and, in the long run, it doesn't affect anything or anyone.

Just knowing that a couple paragraphs I wrote made someone happy even for a minute, well, it kind of makes me want to cry.

I wish I could keep that moment and put it in my own collage of happy things.

So that got me to thinking: What are the little things that make me smile?

Here's a list of five, barring any obvious things like my husband, Christmas, puppy dogs and rainbows:

1. The way Disney World smells. For those who are curious, it's a potpourri of chlorinated water, diesel fuel, candy and magic.

2. The first sip of a caramel frappuccino.

3. Halloween and the day-after-Halloween sales.

4. When I go to a Guster concert and they play my favorite song.

5. Getting mix CDs from my friends with music they think I'd like.

Not to get all sappy and junk, but I encourage you, the person reading this, to send me your list of five things, not for any other reason than to get you to smile and spread some love.

I also want to take this opportunity to apologize to Mrs. Price, who not only responded to my column, too, but took the time and effort to handwrite me a letter and include a lovely bookmark.

Like I noted, I'm horrible at calling people back, and I feel like I should make the same effort and write you a letter, as well. It's only fair.

I hope I get the same opportunity to meet up with you. Frankly, it would mean a lot.

By the way, your handwriting is impeccable, and your letter made all of my co-workers jealous.

If I weren't trying to keep it to a list of five things, your letter would be No. 6.

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