Chapter Eleven: Summer Days
My summer days began to follow a routine: Up at six in the morning, more than an hour for taking my shower, shaving the light fuzz on my face, my underarms and occasionally my legs, applying makeup and fixing my hair. I easily accepted the added time it took just for the realization that I was now a real woman (well, almost) and I could take time to watch myself turn into what I hoped was a lovely young woman every day. Even on weekends, I followed much the same routine, though usually not being quite as fastidious with makeup and hair.
By eight o’clock, after a light breakfast of a banana, orange juice and coffee (sometimes I would add an English muffin or a bagel), I was off to the train to my nine o’clock class at the City University campus. On cooler mornings, I wore Capri pants, a pullover peasant blouse and a beige sweater. On hot days, I favored light, flowing skirts and sleeveless blouses. Sometimes when I felt adventurous, I wore a pink skater dress with no stockings and white heelless sandals; I felt it bordered on scandalous since I feared that if I bent over carelessly or crossed my legs that my panties (usually of simple cotton in various colors) might be exposed. I had often been told my legs were lovely and sexy; more than once I noticed men staring at them, particularly when I wore the skater dress.
Luckily my classes were back-to-back and I was done at noon, permitting me to get home by one o’clock to study, shop, work in my garden, clean the house or just plain goof off. My evenings were quiet for the most part, with Harriet and I having dinner together on Thursday nights, sometimes followed by a stop at our favorite wine bar, where we had gotten to know the owner and several of the waiters. Harriet and I felt right at home in the bar, which was usually occupied by couples, small groups of women friends (like ourselves) or even single older women. The wines were pricey, but the waiters were helpful as we sought to make our selections; they treated us with respect and courtesy, and their small talk was devoid of any sexual innuendoes.
It became routine, too, that on Saturday nights we’d get together, either at my place or hers, and would end up sleeping together after an evening out. Our liaisons were always passionate and oral; I never once sought to enter her, nor did she seem to desire it.
It’s strange to say that we never considered ourselves to be lovers; we seemed, however, to have a mutual need for physical togetherness and unabashed, open passion. Her orgasms were always violent and eager, and I dreamed of the time when after my own surgery I’d have the same experience. For my part, I grew hard enough – even after the hormones – to ejaculate small doses of my juices onto her smooth skin. That often stimulated Harriet even more.
By noon Sunday, we were both back at our homes, with a couple of exceptions when we took in a Sunday baseball game. We had discovered we both had the masochistic experience of following the often-hapless Mets. I think my girlish squeals of delight when our team scored or made a sterling defensive play embarrassed Harriet somewhat, but she never said anything. I did see her wince several times when my whoops may have been a bit over-the-top. She, however, sometimes draw attention to herself with her ability to let out with high-pitched whistles, the kinds usually reserved for construction workers. So much for being dignified ladies!
I saw little of Jon Edwards that summer. Perhaps the main reason was that he took an eight-week teaching assignment at a summer camp upstate and he was rarely home. He also found a new friend, an older school administrator by the name of Peter Orloff, a handsome, graying gentleman who still carried himself with the athletic build he must have had while playing football in college. Though Peter and Jon had become lovers, I joined them on several Sundays for dinner or drinks when Jon was home, always having a great, cheerful evening full of laughs and some serious political talk. (All three of us were strong liberals so we shared an easy camaraderie.) While I knew most gays tended not to like girls like myself, I never felt rejected by these two marvelous men. I was thankful, too, that Jon would be at Farragut the next semester if I was lucky enough to get a contract for the next school year.
In short, it was a marvelous summer to be a woman. I began to think less and less of Hank Duke; Randy remained constantly in my consciousness.
I had always loved flowers and even before I entered the 7th grade I had fashioned a small plot in our tiny backyard in the summer. While other boys my age may have been playing baseball or gathering in gangs, I was busy raising flowers. Through the years, the plot had grown so that it took up nearly the entire area. I favored various varieties of roses, along with beds of annuals, seeking always for plants that would bloom long and brightly. After mom’s death, I found a two-foot high statue of the Madonna holding the Baby Jesus and fashioned a memorial to mothers. I tried to keep it in good taste, without being too kitschy, since mom always hated phony religiosity. Though baptized Catholic and having spent a few early school years in St. Thomas Aquinas School, I had drifted away from the Church; yet, I felt the Madonna and Child statue would be a fitting symbol of the love that my dear mother had given me.
This summer was no exception and on Saturday mornings I would spend time tending to the garden; June was always a particularly busy time for the weekend gardener, since it’s a time when weeds grow quickly and are constantly threatening to crowd out the pretty flowers.
On the last Saturday of June, I was busily weeding the garden in the blazing sun when I heard a commotion from the street in front of the house. At first there was the approaching screech of police car sirens that ended abruptly apparently nearby. Then there was a loud command, “Get out of the car with your hands held high so we can see them.”
Not sure what was going on, I dropped my trowel and slowly moved to the side of the house, my curiosity getting the better of my need for caution. If someone, apparently a police officer, was yelling for a driver to come out with his hands up, there certainly must be gunplay possible.
Sure enough, there were three police cars, a paddy wagon and at least two Ford Victorias (obviously unmarked police cars) blocking the street and surrounding an old faded blue Geo. Emerging from the car at the moment was a blonde-haired teenage boy with a muscular frame. He was wearing a Mets baseball cap backwards and was dressed in white tank top and ragged denim shorts.
Even from a distance, the boy appeared terrified. I saw him get out of the car, and following another shouted order, he turned around and placed his hands atop the car, his back to the gun-toting officers. I heard him yell out “don’t shoot, don’t shoot.”
“Randy, Randy, is that you?” I shouted out, not able to help myself.
Most of the officers – and the crowd of neighbors who had gathered – looked at me as I ran out to the street.
Randy turned around to look at me, and he smiled broadly. “Yes, I’m sorry . . .” his words were immediately drowned out by the officer who yelled at him, ordering him to turn back around and shut up and to keep his hands on the top of the aging Geo.
“Do you know this boy, ma’am,” an officer who had sergeant’s stripes on his short-sleeve uniform blouse.
“Yes, he’s a student I’m tutoring,” I said, quickly forming a false story that I hoped would send the police away without further incident.
“May I have your name, ma’am, and do you live here?” the sergeant asked.
“Yes, it’s Julie Pearson and this is my house,” I said.
“We got a call that this car was sitting in front of the house for over an hour and that the driver looked suspicious and we have to check it out,” he explained.
I nodded that I understood, adding, “You have to follow up on these calls, I’m sure.”
“You’re right ma’am. But I need to ask whether you want to press charges against this boy. He seems to have been stalking you. He was using binoculars and looking constantly at your house.”
“Stalking me? I can’t believe that. He’s just sixteen, officer, and I’m an English teacher. What could he possibly want with me?” I said. It was another lie; I knew exactly what he wanted with me and it wasn’t to be tutored in Chaucer’s Tales.
The sergeant ordered Randy to be put in handcuffs and brought over to where the officer and I were standing. I spoke out as Randy approached.
“Randy, I’m sorry I forgot our tutoring appointment this morning. You must have wondered . . .”
“Let me do the talking, ma’am,” the officer said sharply, cutting me off. I hoped Randy heard enough to pick up on the fact that I had given him a reason for his behavior, which certainly did amount to stalking. Randy smiled at me and nodded. It comforted me: I was certain he had taken the hint.
At that point, the sergeant began routine questioning of Randy, his name, asking to see his driver’s license, etc. Finally, he said, “Now what were you doing here. And let’s have the truth.”
“Well, as Miss Pearson said, I was here for a tutoring session, and when she didn’t answer the door, I just waited out front,” he said.
“Why the binoculars?”
“Well, I got worried when she didn’t appear,” he said not too convincingly.
At that point I was shooed from the scene and told to sit down at a picnic table I had installed next to the back door. The sergeant grilled Randy for a few minutes longer and then they led Randy to a squad car, opened the back door and gently held his head so he could sit in the backseat.
“Don’t arrest him, sergeant. He’s just a boy.” I said when the officer came over to me, sat on the picnic table bench opposite me, and took out his book, poised to take my statement.
After another ten minutes, the officer was satisfied no crime was committed; they let Randy out of the squad, took off his handcuffs and led him to the picnic table. I had requested that they release the boy, assuring them that there would be no further trouble. Before doing so, however, the sergeant briefly interviewed Paul and Marian Phillips, my next door neighbors, who must have said I was a longtime resident and honest citizen.
I wanted to be angry with Randy, but the truth was I found myself enthralled by the realization that this sixteen-year-old boy’s infatuation for me had had become so intense that he would actually search me out. For some reason, I didn’t suspect Randy of being a stalker; perhaps it was because of my own continuing interest in the boy. I couldn’t get him out of my mind; it was just as apparent that for the same reason that I must be continually in his mind.
When the fuss cooled down and the neighbors finally withdrew, I asked Randy if he wished something to drink; I had both iced tea and lemonade prepared in the refrigerator. He chose the lemonade.
“May I come in and help you, Julie . . . er . . . Miss Pearson?” he asked.
“No Randy, stay here. I don’t want the neighbors getting any ideas,” I said.
He nodded sadly.
I considered taking a minute to clean myself up; I knew I must have looked a mess. For my morning gardening chores, I had dressed in a pair of old painter’s pants and a faded yellow tee-shirt; I didn’t wear a bra and my smallish breasts were made apparent from the teats pressing against the cloth. I wore an old straw hat of my mother’s to protect against the sun.
I ran some water from the kitchen sink across my face to wash off some of the dried perspiration, and did a quick brush of my hair before pouring the lemonade. As I carried the glasses out to the picnic table, I couldn’t help but notice that Randy watched me closely, a satisfied smile on his face.
“I must look a real mess,” I said, my self-confidence shaken by his examination.
“No, you look beautiful,” he said.
“Like this? You’re kidding.”
“Especially like this. I need you so badly, Julie,” he said.
“No, you don’t. Randy, you must get me out of your head. You can’t see me anymore. You know that. I can’t see you and you know why.”
He smiled as I sat down opposite him at the picnic table.
“If two people love each other, and I know you love me as much as I love you, they should be together, regardless of the situation,” he said.
“You mean like Romeo and Juliet?” I asked. “You know what their fate was, don’t you?”
“I know our love is as strong as Romeo’s and Juliet’s was for each other, Julie, and I know we can work this out. Our ages don’t matter.”
“Right now, you’re underage and it’s against the law, and certainly against the school district’s rules for a teacher to consort with a student or someone your age who is still in school,” I said my voice gain in determination.
“We can do it on the sly,” he suggested, with a wink. “No one needs to know.”
“But what about my gender issue, Randy? When I first told you, you rejected me like the plague, calling me a freak. I haven’t changed since then.”
Randy paused for a moment. He took a sip of his lemonade. As he did so, I noticed Susie, the girl from across the street, standing in front of her house, looking at us. She was an inquisitive girl, I knew and likely would wonder what I was doing serving lemonade to a high school boy. I’m sure she’ll tell her mother about what she saw and I knew I’ll have to be ready to tell Heidi something about this incident.
Randy began, looking me directly in the eye: “You’re the still the prettiest, kindest and nicest girl, or should I say, woman that I’ve ever met, Julie, and best of all I know you care for me. Soon, you’ll be changed and be a total woman. I know you’ll be headed for surgery.”
“Randy, please don’t,” I pleaded, tears coming to my eyes. I wanted so badly to hug and kiss this boy, to take him into my house and onto my bed to experience his warm, hard masculine body pressed against mine.
“If you didn’t love me, Julie, why did you lie for me just now with the police?” he asked.
“It had nothing to do with love, Randy,” I answered quickly. “I know you’re a good kid and I couldn’t see you getting a record. Perhaps it had to do, too, with the fact that I would have been on record as the target of your stalking and that would have endangered my teaching career. So you can see, it had nothing to do with love.”
“I don’t believe that. You love me,” he said simply.
I felt I was about to cry, but I knew I couldn’t let that happen. I was the adult here and I had to take command, I told myself.
“Randy, please go,” I said firmly. “Don’t bother me again.”
“Just go, Randy,” I said. Even though he hadn’t finished his lemonade, I grabbed his glass and my own and darted into the house, locking the door behind me. I ran to my bedroom, flopped on my bed, amidst the tangled bedclothes. I knew I stunk from the perspiring work I did in the garden, but I didn’t care.
I thought I’d hear the doorbell ring or some frantic pounding on the door, but apparently Randy didn’t try to pursue the matter, at least for the time being. The house was silent.
Was Randy gone from my life forever?
As I expected, Heidi Nordquist inquired about the incident. I encountered her in the afternoon when I began to trim some weeds in the front yard. She suggested I stop by for some iced tea when I finished, and I took her up on the offer, realizing that it was best to satisfy her curiosity sooner than later. Although I was uncomfortable with the fact that she asked, I felt she was not doing so because of a need to gossip or inquire needlessly into my life. I felt she did so because she was concerned that I may need some help. To answer her, I wasn’t completely honest I must admit. I was beginning to hate myself for my growing tendency to lie out of situations.
“Randy has become infatuated with me, I’m afraid to say,” I told her truthfully.
“Oh, is he a student at Farragut?” she asked.
“No, he goes to a different school, but he competed at an inter-school competition I worked on, and I was impressed with his presentation,” I began to fabricate a story. “I chatted with him a bit, asked him about his college plans and so forth. He apparently thought I took more than a professional interest in him, I guess, and checked with a friend of his who was a student in my school and she told him how to find me. I think being stopped by the police here and put in handcuffs has stifled his interest. At least, I hope so.”
“You are pretty, Julie, and you do look younger than your age, too,” Heidi said. “I can understand his infatuation.”
“Thanks, I’m finding that out. I was meant to be a girl all along I guess.”
“Suppose you got a hot date tonight then, Julie?” Heidi asked with a teasing smile.
I giggled and then responded that I did have a date, but it was with my older teacher friend, Harriet.
“OK, that’s fine, I was just wondering if you’d like to join me for dinner,” she said. “Seems I’m alone tonight since all the kids will be gone.”
“I’m sorry, Heidi. I’d love to if I weren’t busy,” I said, quickly adding: “Say, maybe you’d like to join Harriet and me? It’s such a pleasant night that she and I were planning on going to Washington Park for the band concert there tonight and just eat at the food stands. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind and I know you two would like each other.”
After a bit of persuasion over Heidi’s objections that she might be intruding on our plans, Heidi agreed to join us.
We dressed informally for the evening. I wore a knee-length floral skirt that hung loosely and comfortably, a sleeveless light beige tee-shirt and pink sneakers with blue trim. I fixed my hair in pigtails that I realized would make me look even younger than my twenty-four years and might even make it seem that Harriet was my grandmother and Heidi my mother. I carried a white knit sweater in case I might need it due to the evening chill.
The three of us made quite a sight, the tall, trim graying Harriet, the equally tall huskier blonde Nordic Heidi and me, easily more petite, daintier and younger. While I had come to the realization that I may have been the prettiest of the three (I hated thinking that because it fed my vanity), there was no question of the attractiveness of the other two. Harriet was particularly handsome with her chiseled facial features, still relatively wrinkle-free. She wore rimless glasses and kept her hair close-cropped that seemed to bring out her basic intelligence; her alert, sparkling green eyes added warmth to her demeanor. As a big, somewhat fleshy woman, Heidi exuded sensuousness. She wore a light green summer dress with capped sleeves, a peasant bodice and a belt.
It was a perfectly exquisite evening, made perfect by the mild, moonlit night and the community band that had developed a reputation for being unusually talented. While the other two enjoyed it, I reveled in their company and the fact that I was accepted as a woman friend. I again enjoyed finding my acceptance among women was easier and more comfortable than I could ever find among men. We talked between the selections, clapped along with the rhythm of the band when it was appropriate and rose on our feet in unison when the crowd gave its final applause.
At one point during the concert, Harriet leaned over and whispered, “I think we’ve attracted the eyes of a few men here tonight, or rather I should say you two have. No one looks at an old bag like me.”
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “I think that guy over there with the Bermuda shorts on is looking at you.”
“Yeah, he’s perfect for you Harriet. Looks like an attorney,” Heidi teased.
“I’ll bet he’s like all men who want them young and pretty like Julie here,” Harriet said as the music started.
There were plenty of young, single men in the audience and I did find their wandering eyes hitting upon me. I was thankful that none approached me; they were probably warded off by the fact that I was in a group of three women.
When I saw a bulky letter from the Sunrise Harbor School District nestled amid the flyers and other junk mail one warm July afternoon, my breath was taken away. I was afraid to open it: did it contain a contract? Or some other message?
I kissed it, leaving a faint lipstick stain on the front of the envelope. Finally, I got up the courage to open it, and found out it was a contract. I let out a squeal so loud that I feared Paul and Marian Phillips next door might hear it and think I was being attacked.
It was a four-page contract in formal, legal language that basically said I would be on probation for the entire first school year and could face dismissal at the will of the district; I learned such clauses were typical. The contract did not specify either the school or the classes I would be teaching, stating only that my assignment would be at the direction of the school district. I would be paid at the beginning rate that had been negotiated in the contract between the teachers’ union and the school district.
Even though I was not assured of my assignment, I signed the two copies of the contract and mailed them back immediately. Within a week I got a call from Mrs. Hammond, the Farragut principal, who said that she was pleased I had accepted the contract and added that I’d be assigned to her school.
“I wonder Miss Pearson if you’d mind stopping by sometime before the Staff Orientation begins to talk a few things over with me,” she said.
“Oh, is there a problem?” I asked.
“Not at this time that I know of, Miss Pearson, but you never know,” she said, talking slowly and carefully. I could tell she was measuring her words cautiously.
“OK,” I said, realizing that my situation might be cause for concern.
“It’s a voluntary meeting. We can’t pay you for your time. You can refuse and you’ll still have the contract.”
“No, Mrs. Hammond. I understand and agree it might be best to meet.”
I agreed to meet with her in mid-August after my summer school classes had ended.
Until summer school ended, my social life that summer was pretty much limited to my outings with Harriet, sometimes with Heidi joining us. I found my days and nights filled with studying, keeping my flower garden weed-free and reading. I met a social studies teacher about my age in one of the classes. He was a shy slender man with a bright twinkle in his eye and a wry sense of humor named Leighton Loomis and I was pleased to accept his invitation to join him for lunch one day after classes.
Unlike my earlier male admirers, Leighton was not muscular; his forearms were soft and slender and his hands almost as small as my own. Yet, Leighton (that was how he liked to be called) had strong sense of his own worth and we shared great conversations about movies, literature and the current state of world affairs. He was clean-shaven and appeared to be the picture of propriety; yet, many of his political thoughts were of the near-revolutionary variety. “We need to take to the streets on banning guns,” he said one day when we both expressed dissatisfaction with the NRA’s stranglehold on gun violence prevention legislation.
I enjoyed Leighton’s company and we often stopped for coffee; he invited me to a lecture at the University on economic justice, which I accepted. I found that Leighton had more than an academic interest in the issue and was actively participating in campaigns around immigration, supporting fast food workers and building a strong teachers’ union. He had also spent several nights camping out during the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, he told me, and even drove nearly a thousand miles to Madison, Wisconsin, in the cold winter of 2011 to join the massive protests of public workers around that state’s capitol.
“Oh Leighton, that’s marvelous,” I told him as he related his activities.
“There’s an environmental rally Saturday downtown. Come with me,” he suggested as we met one Wednesday afternoon over coffee.
“Oh, I’d love to, but I can’t. Already have plans,” I said. It was an honest excuse, but one I could have broken, since my plans involved getting together with Harriet. I was sure she’d be OK if I said I was planning something else, particularly with a young man.
“Well, maybe next time.”
Other than friendly kisses when we met or parted, Leighton never expressed a sexual interest in me. I must admit that I desired to connect more physically with Leighton, to feel his soft body next to my own and to passionately join in kisses. I put his diffidence down to shyness and though I might have enjoyed more intimacy with him, I decided not to pursue the matter, largely because I was not yet the complete woman he would want me to be.
Leighton was a strange man. How could anyone be so shy in his personal relationship with a woman and yet be such an outspoken, adventurous person in public campaigns for the poor and down-trodden? He would be an interesting man to get to know, I felt. Yet, I never did join Leighton in any of his rallies or marches, and we lost touch with each other once the summer school classes ended. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and after a few exchanged emails our acquaintance died. Yet, I hoped I might someday run across this young man; I felt he was destined to make a mark for himself.
“I’m afraid, Miss Pearson, that your teaching assignment in the district this semester may not go as smoothly as we might have liked,” Mrs. Hammond said as I sat down in her office in mid-August.
It was a hot, muggy day that was typical for that time of summer and the school was not air-conditioned. Farragut High’s building dated back to the New Deal WPA days of the 1930s and had a heating system that could not easily be adapted for air conditioning. For most school days, of course, it was not an issue, since even on warm days there often was a breeze off the nearby harbor that provided some relief.
Mrs. Hammond wore a light sleeveless blouse and loose-fitting skirt, obviously in deference to the expectation of facing a muggy, stiflingly warm day in the school. She was a tall, imposing woman with firm, well-toned arms and she reminded me of Michelle Obama. She had two fans operating in the room that seemed to move the otherwise dead air. I was not so well-prepared, having worn a tight fitting brown skirt and long sleeved blouse.
“One of the School Board members has raised an issue over your gender,” she began. “Normally, the Board doesn’t question our decisions on whom to hire, though we always send a list of the proposed new hires to the Board, which they usually rubber stamp. Not so this time. One of the members wondered if the teacher named Julie Pearson was any relation to the Jason Pearson who taught as a substitute last semester, and of course I told them the two were one in the same.”
“And he didn’t like the idea, I suppose?” I asked, knowing the obvious answer.
“Not one bit, but I told him that you had proven to be a particularly effective teacher in taking over Mrs. McGuire’s class and that I didn’t think we could deny you an appointment based solely upon your gender issues.”
“Do you want me to cancel the contract?” I asked. I knew this might happen and I was fully prepared to back off. I truly didn’t want to make a public fuss about myself.
“No, definitely not,” she said. “We’re determined to make this work as long as you’re willing to weather the storm of criticism that might come along with it.”
I was silent. I looked down at my hands, which I held folded in my lap. I looked at the pale pink sheen of my nails that I had freshened up just that morning.
“I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this Mrs. Hammond. Really, I don’t want to cause the school any disruption.”
“I understand, Julie,” she replied, using my first name for the first time. “If you feel you don’t want to put yourself in the spotlight we’ll understand and cancel the contract. You’ll always get the highest of recommendations from us in the future, if you do that.”
“I really want to teach so badly, Mrs. Hammond, and I had such a great experience this past semester, but maybe I should just cancel out the contract,” I said. I felt tears filling my eyes, but fought back any outright crying.
Mrs. Hammond pulled a couple of tissues from the box on her desk and handed them to me. I wiped my eyes, trying carefully against having my makeup run. Despite the warmth of the room, I felt a slight chill.
“Julie,” she finally said. “Are you sure you want to give up so quickly? I want you to know that you will have the support not only of myself and the other administrative staff, but also of the superintendent. To be honest with you, I’ve never known our current superintendent to ever take such a courageous stand, but on this issue, he seems quite firm. With him, it’s a matter of principle. Frankly, we both believe you’re a dedicated and talented person with a great future as a teacher, and we need to keep such persons like you in the profession. Your gender issues, which I know are real and documented, should not deny you from your chosen profession, nor should it deny our children of your talents.”
I looked at her directly in the eye.
“You mean that, don’t you?”
“Yes, we do.”
“What about the other teachers and the kids?” I asked.
“My dear Julie,” she said. “You made a great number of friends here this last semester so I don’t see that as a problem, and I know the teachers’ union will support you as well.”
“I’ll stay,” I said.
“One more thing, Julie. I think we’ll have to prepare for some problems that may develop due to your hiring,” Mrs. Hammond said.
“I expected that,” I said, fully realizing the school was going out of its way to accommodate my situation.
“I’ve already discussed this with Security, the superintendent and Jon Edwards who is your teachers’ union building rep and we’re all in agreement that we want to make your entry into school peaceful and with the least amount of disruption. Now here is the plan.”
Mrs. Hammond outlined how they would handle the announcement about my hiring. I was shocked to hear that they would let the major newspaper in the area know first of all, in a sense “leaking” the news that a transgendered woman was being hired to teach.
“Now if you disagree with this effort to ‘get ahead of the story,’ as they say, we’ll do something else,” she said. “I think it might be wise to open yourself up to a newspaper interview that I believe would give you a forum to explain your situation. It might help take away some of the sensationalism around the story. You will likely be besieged by TV reporters and we can help you deal with them if you’d like.”
I was hesitant about endorsing the plan since I had hoped to come into my new teaching assignment as any beginning teacher would, without attracting any attention. Apparently, that would be impossible and I agreed to the plan, as well as to how they would handle my entry into school on those first days of the semester.
“You’ll have a good escort that will include myself, the superintendent, Mr. Edwards and several other teachers whom I know will join us,” she explained. “In addition, we talking with some of your former students and I know several of them will join us. I don’t think it will be much of an issue, except with a small group.”
“Oh my, Mrs. Hammond. I’m so sorry for putting you through all this trouble,” I said. “Maybe I should forget about this whole business of teaching.”
She eyed me critically. “Ms. Pearson, let’s not play games with this. Are you going to go through with this or not?”
“I guess,” I said, speaking almost inaudibly.
“Look, Ms. Pearson. I never took you for a coward and felt you had the courage of your convictions. You tell me you want to teach, and you’ve already shown us you’ve got potential to be a great teacher. Look at the color of my skin. Do you think I’d be here today except for Rosa Parks riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and that Brown girl in Topeka, Kansas, who became the basis for Brown v. Board of Education?”
“I guess not,” I agreed.
“We’re supporting you – the school district and this high school – because we know it’s the right and just thing to do. Even if I don’t like your decision to change your sex, I understand it and there’s no reason that someone in your situation can’t provide their skills into any profession. We look, Ms. Pearson, upon this as a teaching opportunity. These kids will get to see how difficult obtaining justice can be.”
She paused and I sat overwhelmed by the power of her words. I could see she was perspiring as her passion seemed to push the heat in already warm room to even greater heights.
“Now, are you going to teach this fall or not?”
“I’m teaching,” I said, my voice reflecting newfound confidence I got from hearing the words of Theresa Hammond.
“Good, now let me tell you about your teaching assignments, Ms. Pearson,” she said, reverting to her more formal manner of address.
I left her office after learning that I would be teaching Freshman English, not a particularly easy assignment but one that I felt I could master. She also said that Harriet Simpson had suggested I take on extra hours of work as her drama assistant for which I would get a bonus. For some reason, I left the office fully comfortable with my decision to face a job that would require all the fortitude and courage I could muster. It both excited and scared me.
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