Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Emerson Mantle

Teaching this semester at Emerson College in  Boston has been a great treat. The students, as expected, remain the Emerson students — smart, inquisitive, outspoken and not to be deterred. But my return is not without some sadness. The three professors who had the greatest impact on my life passed away over the last few months.  Walt Littlefield who was my advisor and friend died in August.  He encouraged me to make decisions and stick to them — only modifying whatever my path was if it would hurt someone, or was taking me in the wrong principles direction. He helped me to create a major that didn’t exist so that in the future I would be able to live my life as a productive person who understood that things change, and in order to thrive we needed to change with them.  He was my undergraduate and Graduate School mentor. Most of my Graduate classes were held in what is known today as the “Cheers” bar— sans Ted Danson. We were hippies when we needed to be, and with my best pal “Mush” we became classic graduate school lunatics.  So many laughs.

Coleman Bender was the Chair of the Communications Department.  He was a cheerful, magnanimous leader, who was my professor and additionally saved my life when it was spinning out of control, (perhaps I exaggerate a bit), but after I graduated and got married (something that we did but no one ever understood why— maybe because we were afraid to be alone.) Wow, I sure learned not to be afraid — unfortunately, it turned out to be a painful lesson. 

But that’s not what I wanted to blob about.  After graduation I had to work, but the jobs available were not, you might say, challenging.  I worked at a Jewish bakery, where my elderly colleagues tried to hit me with a challah. A Chinese restaurant, where the owners insisted I pretend to be Asian. A drug store unloading cartons. And an employment agency where I got fired for being a social worker, instead of making personnel placements.  In desperation, I called Dr Bender and begged him to save this drowning soul. He gave me a free tuition and a teaching Assistantship, which paid $3200.00, which was exactly what my “questionable genius” husband (my mother would have called him smart, smart, stupid!) was being paid as a Post Doctoral Scholar.  We ate so many tuna sandwiches, but eventually I got my Masters and a job teaching at Boston University.  

And then there was my good pal and tormentor, Ken Crannell. From the time I walked into his classroom he began to evaluate my speech, the way I dressed, my lack of any performance talent and my lack of desire to achieve greatness.  He thought I needed to learn not to be afraid of pretty much anything.  He kicked my butt up Beacon Street and down Newbury.  Never once accepting excuses for anything I did that was half assed — there were lots of those antics.  Ken was a survivor of polio, so he used two crutches to walk.  But when he performed a musical show, (the whole thing — all the characters) he put down the crutches, sat on the stage on a stool,  and throughout the performance, you never realized that there was only one person (not an entire cast) up on that stage.  Mastering that talent was not one of the things I learned to do. But I did learn that you could overcome any disability if you were determined to be comfortable with who you were and could be.  And never to be afraid to find your voice and help others find theirs, in any difficult situation.  Some would say I have found too much voice  But most of all, he taught me to have a sense of humor no matter the situation. Whether working in the White House or advocating for an justice, you could not survive without being able to laugh. 

And speaking of laughter, the debate last night was somewhat hilarious.  Our Donald (not mine) made up his own words when he couldn’t find one that already existed.  “Bigly” instead of bigger or enormous.  And “bad hombres”.  Who is this person that pretends to want to be the President of the United States but thinks it’s alright to dictate rather than discuss issues.  Egomaniac, Narcissistic, a fop (look it up).  We need to move on.

Today is my mother and her twin’s  birthday.  They have been gone for a few years (and are not coming back except in our heads and dreams).  Funny, delightful, street smart, vulnerable, and always on the ball. Missing them does not go away.  And the mug I bought a few days ago which said, “everything my mother said was right”, certainly is a “bigly” thing.   We’re just sayin’…. Iris

No comments: