On the last day of school before Christmas break, a glowing ball of energy strides into my room! It's a beloved former student who has returned with a gift, a thank-you card, and an invitation to her harp concert.
I look at the date, "Oh my mother's birthday!"
Her face changes, "So you won't make it."
"No, I think I can. My mom's in California. I'm pretty sure I can make it."
I even text her as per her RSVP request, and I pre-apologize "though, I'll be in my yoga clothes."
On the harp concert day, I leave yoga early and make it to her house just on time.
When I see there are parking signs, and a sign as to where to enter, I'm proud of my former student's organization.
She'd told me the concert was just to "give back," and to give people a pause from the rush of the holiday season. She was even serving refreshments.
I slip into the back row of a crowded family room. Within minutes, she stands and thanks everyone for coming. She is glowing with excitement.
The room is surrounded with young and old, friends and previous students, even a fellow teacher.
The music is sanctified. I tear at the loveliness, at the talent of the three young woman who have planned, practiced, and who are now giving their best.
When the concert is over, I wedge my way through the crowd to thank her for the beautiful music. When she sees me, she softly says, "Mrs. Martinez, you came."
Having slipped in the back, just minutes before the concert started, she hadn't seen me before it had started. In her greeting, she showed her surprise and her appreciation, and even her faith in my RSVP.
She couldn't have realized how endearing those words, You came, were to me. When she uttered them, they were so familiar and for days I pondered where I'd heard them before. I could only recall one sacred incidence.
My dear neighbor of twenty years had moved into a care facility. I'd been out of town, and when I returned, I was warned her health and mental state had rapidly declined. I was afraid.
Was it best to remember her as the sharp English teacher or to see her in an aged and vulnerable state? I'd spent hours on the summers-night-porch, and by her winter fireplace. She'd shared her stories, her wisdom, her deepest longings. Even her chocolate. She'd passed on a beloved poetry anthology when I first started teaching AP Literature.
I ached when I thought she would never return to the home she loved. I ached when I knew she may not recognize me or appreciate my visit as she had in the past.
I didn't want to go. But I did because Tony insisted.
When we saw each other, she said, "You came."