Midweek Motif topic this week is Books.
My prose is a bit lengthy, but the subject
begged a story to be told.
Submitted to Poets United Midweek Motif
April 12, 2017
My love of books began in a little one-room school in middle Illinois. My teacher, Earl Zehr, was small in stature, a rather nondescript man, who always wore a crisp shirt and tie with a cardigan sweater. I don’t remember that he ever raised his voice, yet he maintained respect and order in our schoolroom. It all seemed very ordinary then, and it was only many years later I came to realize just what an impact he had on my life.
The role of a country schoolteacher in those days was so much more than reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and history. Mr. Zehr was janitor, and responsible for building a fire in the big pot-bellied stove on cold winter mornings; and, with some help from students, keeping our schoolroom tidy. We learned responsibility by being assigned small tasks, and pride in doing them well. He was music director, and played the piano for our rousing renditions of “America, the Beautiful”, “God Bless America and other patriotic songs that instilled a pride and love for our country. On the playground, he was umpire, coach and athletic director. It was here we learned life lessons that would stand us in good stead for all our lives. We learned to play fair, to negotiate, to respect others, to look after the little ones, and always to do our best. On holidays, Mr. Zehr became the drama teacher, preparing and choreographing little programs which we performed for our parents.
But the greatest gift for me was the time he set aside two or three days a week to read to us from a book of his choice. In my mind I see him still, taking up the book from the corner of his desk, opening it almost reverently, and, in his measured voice, beginning to read to us of faraway cities and events so very different from our rural part of the world. He would read two or three chapters, then close the book until the next session, leaving us in breathless anticipation. I became thirsty to read every book that came my way. My studies ended after a year in business college, but my education has lasted my life long, thanks to the thirst for knowledge he instilled in me. Books are my best friends. Many years later, in what proved to be the last year of his life, I had occasion to see Mr. Zehr again, and to thank him for the gift he had given me. I am so grateful I had that opportunity.
No passport required