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Lanita Bradley Boyd is a free-lance writer who lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, which is near Cincinnati, Ohio. In her writing she often draws on her rural childhood, many years of teaching experiences, family events and personalities, and Christian outreach activities. She grew up in Tennessee, daughter of Lawrence and Mary Ralph Bradley, from whom she learned to love the Lord, to love learning, and to love writing. Her children's lives reflect those passions also.
She has been publishedin several anthologies such as God Allows U-Turns, Rest Stops for Teachers, God's Way for Women/Couples/Graduates, The Heart of a Mother, and Rocking Chair Reader. She lives with her husband Steve, who is a speaker and writer. Their children are: daughter Kelsey who teaches ESL and son Josh who with wife Gina parents Kinley Abigail Boyd, an amazingly beautiful and talented three-year-old.
Lanita can be contacted through her website at www.lanitaboyd.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her sample story below, in a slightly different format, will appear in The Heart of a Teacher in the spring of 2005.
SILVER THREADS AMONG THE GOLD
by Lanita Bradley Boyd
Lawrence stopped the nurse walking briskly down the tastefully decorated corridor. "We're here to visit...Mrs. Moore," he said, hesitating over the unfamiliar formality. "Does she--does she recognize people?"
The nurse shook her head, showing none of the brusqueness they had expected. "Miss Marie?" she asked, and he nodded, surprised to hear the Southern use of "Miss" with the first name. "Not really. Sometimes we think she does understand even when she doesn't respond. On rare days she seems to know her daughter. It breaks our hearts. You know, lots of us here at the nursing home had her as a teacher at one time or another. She was unique. She was a classy lady, all right." She smiled fondly. "There was a time that there wasn't a sharper mind than hers anywhere, wasn't there?"
Lawrence and Mary look more closely at the nurse, the familiarity of her tone drawing their attention. "Do I know you?" Lawrence asked, hesitantly.
She grinned. "You should, Mr. Bradley. I was Norma Faye Atchinson, now Parks. I had you for biology the same year I had Miss Marie for algebra. You haven't changed all that much but I know I sure have. I wouldn't have expected you to recognize me with all this weight. And I have children of my own in high school, too. Just last week I was telling my daughter who's taking sophomore biology how interesting your classes were." Her sudden girlish giggle placed him instantly back in the sultry biology lab of twenty years before, watching a group of girls whispering and giggling over the new yearbook.
With hardly a pause, she continued. "Do you notice we still say 'Miss Maa-rie' like she always did? When new girls come in and start calling her 'Mrs. Moore' or just 'Muh-rie,'--can you imagine such disrespect?--we straighten them out right away. We say 'This is Miss Maa-rie, who was a childhood friend of Madame Chiang Kai Shek and the best teacher Sumner County High School ever had. You be sure you show her the proper respect. And pronounce her name right!' And you'd better believe they do!"
They smiled, murmuring, then moved on into Miss Marie's room.
The aristocratic white head rested lightly on the spotless pillow, its fragility heightening the impression of elegance. They stood at each side of the bed.
"Miss Marie, it's Lawrence," he said. "Mary and I came by to say hello. You have a nice neat place here."
The old eyelids fluttered slightly. She stared blankly at each of them in turn, giving no sign of recognition.
Lawrence spoke at length of days past--of the Tennessee high school where they had taught, of students and teachers they had known, of more current happenings since they'd both left--she to retire, he to another school.
"Times are so different now, Miss Marie. The students are different, and they're under so much pressure. Going to school just isn't like it used to be when we were teaching together. Parents don't have the same respect for education as the parents we dealt with. That shows in the way the students act, too.
"You and I used to sing some pretty good duets at those school talent shows, didn't we? We don't even hear most of those old songs anymore, but everyone loved them back then. Remember "The Rose of Tralee" and "Silver Threads Among the Gold"? And how about "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen"? Your voice was fantastic. I still think of you when I hear a clear, melodic voice that can really master those high notes."
He looked pleadingly at his wife, and she nodded, knowing he wanted some support in this one-sided conversation. "Our children are all doing well, Miss Marie. They all loved having you in school. You know, that last year you taught, Lanita changed her whole four-year plan of courses so she could take as many classes as possible from you. You're just about a saint to everybody you ever taught, I guess." She paused.
Lawrence began again, pondering each phrase, pausing frequently. "I think that for all of us who had grown up in the country and had never been very sophisticated, we were glad just to get to sit at your feet. You knew something about everything. We'd never had a teacher that could teach Latin and English literature and algebra equally well. You had such style, such verve, about everything you ever did. You taught us all that what we do in life is not more important than how we do it."
"I guess we'll be going now," Lawrence said. "I don't really know if you've understood any of this or not. They were just things I should have said to you long ago and never did. You were such a great influence on my life when you were my teacher, and then even more when we taught together. You really made me understand about teenagers and caring.
"Until we had all those long conversations about students and teaching, I had never had a glimmer of understanding as to why you were so successful with every student, no matter what their backgrounds or needs. You taught me that demanding only the best from each of them showed caring most of all. You were always my role model, and I felt like I had to come and tell you so. Any success I have had as a teacher I owe to you.
"I hope you understood some of this." He paused, watching for some response. "Good-by, now."
Hand in hand, the couple walked slowly toward the door, hesitant to leave, yet seeing the futility of staying. Suddenly they were stopped by a gentle quavering sound from the bed.
"Dah-ling, I am grow-ing o-old. Sil-ver threads among the gold," the aged voice sang. Lawrence was instantly at her side, his gentle tenor joining her wispy soprano. "Shine upon my brow to-da-ay; life is fading fast a-way."
"But, my dah-ling, you will be-e-e, Al-ways young and fair to me. Yes, my dah-ling, you will be-e, Always young and fair to me."
Her voice gained strength and her enunciation was flawless as they reached the chorus, Lawrence grasping the fragile hand. "Dah-ling, I am growing o-old, Silver threads among the gold. Shine upon my brow today; Life is fading fast away."
Miss Marie smiled softly, her eyes now closed. The effort had obviously drained her limited strength, but they sensed that for her it had been worth it. Her student, her mentee, her friend, had come to pay tribute and she had responded with style.
Lanita Bradley Boyd is a free-lance writer and former teacher living in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.