Tag Archives: newspaper column

LSS: Separate bits, bags and earrings always on

Every time I type the word separate, I actually say six little words. They are the very words Dr. Mary Ann Dazey said to me when I learned, once and for all, how to spell that word correctly.
There is a rat in separate.
She said those words and then turned around to the chalkboard and pointed to a rat in the middle of the word.
“And that’s all you need to know to spell that word correctly forever,” she said.
Given my life of confusion over such, as a senior in college, I hung on her words and changed my wicked ways. Dr. Dazey was one of those rare professors willing to open her heart to her students and embrace them with love and knowledge. She taught me much more than how to spell separate, but that mundane morsel reminds me of her and the joy she shared in the learning process.
By the way, Dr. Dazey often quoted poetry at random moments, Shakespeare mainly.

Every time I stand in front of a group of folks and the time comes for us to move as a group to another spot, I find myself saying, “Gather your bits and bags and let’s go.”
When I hear those words coming from my mouth, I smile and think of the first time a teacher said them to me.
Ovid Vickers taught my first college class. On that summer morning, I was feeling what I consider to be reasonable jitters. I had graduated from high school the day before. (No time to waste in starting college.) Mr. Vickers walked in the room and began to call roll. He enunciated each syllable of every name in an exaggerated way that made me smile. Sometimes, he would call a name and then stare in silence for a few seconds at the person who raised his or her hand. Toward the end of the list, he called my name. He paused, looked up at me and said loudly, “Who’s ya daddy?”
It was the first thing he had said other than calling names and caught me completely off guard. I told him my father’s name, and he said, “Yep, taught your daddy and your mama too. I remember when they met,” and then went on calling roll.
I was completely under his spell. I found nearly everything he said noteworthy. When one day we went as a class to another place on campus, he said, “Gather your bits and bags and let’s go.”
Of all the brilliant things he said, that phrase doesn’t even rank, but to this day it makes me smile and re-live for just a moment the excitement of learning new things.
By the way, Mr. Vickers often quoted poetry at random moments, Theodore Roethke usually.

Every time I’m out and about and realize I’ve forgotten to put earrings on, I am mortified. Fashion faux pas rarely rattle me, but earringless-pierced ears are different. That’s because Mrs. Donna McLean told my junior high school English class that if you have pierced ears, you should never go out in public without earrings.
Like the other bits of English-teacher wisdom, that nugget stuck. In a small Southern town, Mrs. McLean was out of the ordinary. She was from California. She spoke using a different syntax. She was like an entertainer on a stage and could have sold tickets (at least to me) for English class. Her love of language added fuel to the fire of my own. She made me think and encouraged me in ways that make a positive difference in my life to this day. She helped me believe in myself. Her ideas expanded my mind, and her class made me a better writer, student and person. Earrings can’t compare to what she taught me, but they are my daily reminder of Mrs. McLean.
By the way, Mrs. McLean often quoted poetry at random moments, Robert Frost primarily.

Separate bits, bags and earrings. Concrete moments that remind me of what great teachers have thrown my way. Gratitude abounds.