Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One to Two Degrees of Separation

I have been in town 5 weeks and at my new job for 4, and I promise to update you on the progress. I will even tell you about the incredible luck I experienced on moving day. And I promise, Sister, to post about “where were you 2 years ago?” But for today, I would like to add another entry to 6 degrees of separation.

when I saw her I have had a many instances of 6 degrees of separation, but lately it’s been eerie. When I gave my new landlady my rent deposit, we started up a conversation about Greek life at Mizzou when I saw her Tri Delt certificate on the wall. I told her I was not Greek but that my daughter was a Chi O. I said, “I am sure your parents felt you were safer by being in a sorority” when I guessed she was older than I was. She said, “When my parents dropped me off at college from Hannibal…” and I said, as I catch myself saying a lot, “I only know one person from Hannibal…” When I mentioned the name of my godmother, she said, “Not only did we go to the same high school, we graduated the same year and will have our 50th high school reunion next month.” I had no idea my godmother was 68. Later, I was telling my sister and her best friend this story, and the friend said, “I only know one person…” and we found out that she taught with the woman whose basement I lived in last year…forty years ago. (She taught with her forty years ago. I did not live in this woman's basement forty years ago.)

The other day at work I started small talk with a student and couldn’t ask her “So what high school did you go to?” when I found out she was from my hometown. (It’s a St. Louis thing.) I asked her her last name, and it did not ring a bell so I asked for her mother’s maiden name which did ring a bell. I said, “Your mother wouldn’t happen to have a brother named Alan, would she?” She said, “Yes, that’s my uncle.” I said, “Well, your uncle was my mother’s landlord.” When I told her to tell her uncle that she met this woman’s daughter, she said, “I met her when I was a little girl.” (You can’t forget my mother nor her name.) Today I was chit-chatting with a co-worker and asked “So where did you go to high school?” (She was from St. Louis.) When she said, “Hazelwood East,” we discovered I knew her yearbook teacher from my days as a yearbook advisor from the early 80s.

But this last one today almost made me giggle out loud. I walk at lunch to keep the fat monster away. Today there was a vendor fair at the Union so I hiked over there knowing there would be freebies. I’m all about the freebie, so as I walked around the vendor tables, I recognized the Office Max rep. I caught his eye and started smiling at him, and he finally said, “Are you trying to make me crack up?” So I walked around until he was finished with his sales pitch before coming back and having a wonderful conversation. Not only did I know the Office Max sales rep. *I slept with the Office Max sales rep. Is that ONE degree of separation?

*Oh, don’t get your panties in a twist. This was many many many many years ago.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Six Degrees

I know... I "owe" my loyal fans an update, and I promise I will get there. I have been in town a month and at my job that long and things are going well. I am doing much better, but I will update later. But today it's time for a story.

My sister is an English teacher in a school district just outside St. Louis. She did her typical first day introductions, and a student came up the next day and said, "I told my mom all about you, and she said you reminded her of an English teacher she had who influenced her life." The mom asked her daughter her teacher's name, and she said, "Miss B." And the mom said, "Well, that's too much of a coincidence. MY English teacher's name was Miss B and she sounds just like your English teacher. Does she have red hair?" And her daughter said, "No, she has gray hair, but I'll ask if they're related."

The mother went to another room and pulled out a folded paper with a poem written by her English teacher and given to her 27 years ago when she was freshman . The poetic note applauded her on her writing talent and praised her singing talent, too. She said, "Take this to your English teacher and ask her if she is related to MY Miss B." The next day the student came up to my sister and said, "Here is a poem my mom's English teacher wrote to her when she was in 9th grade. Do you think you could be related to this Miss B?" My sister took one look at the worn handwritten piece of paper and said, "I definitely am related to THIS poet." And the student said, "How do you know?" And my sister said, "Because I recognize my sister's handwriting."

I couldn’t believe this woman had kept something I wrote all these year. Ya just never know. When my sister eventually found out the mother's name (damn lost identity due to name change at marriage), I barely recognized the name. I had over 140 freshmen a year and some stood out for good and bad reasons. I remember she had black hair and a beautiful voice (which was part of the subject of the poem from what my sister told me). But I made an indelible impression on her. And we should remember that.

Six degrees of separation. Does that give you goosebumps? Well, it gave me goosebumps and tears. That story made me feel that I, indeed, made a difference in someone's life. I needed that at this point in my life and thought I would share that with you. And it’s not really about me. I just find the world, and all of its smallness, remarkable.

I bet all of us have a "six degrees of separation" story that brings us goosebumps. I have several, but this may be one my favorites.

Back later with a real update.