Growing up, I had an OK relationship with school. I mean I’ve had my share of bullies, bad clothing choices and abhorrent hair styles (I was a fan of front bangs and hair spray, judge me). There are many memories I hold close to my heart and many I want to put into a box, incinerate and feed to a rabies-infested hawk; however, the memories that stick with me the most are that of my teachers. Yes, there were those I didn’t think were cool, and there were some I thought were super cool, but there were a few that were ultra-cool. In particular, when I was in middle school, I remember my music teacher, Ms. Gail Nichols.
Ms. Nichols made me excited to go to school, and I’ll never forget the way she smelled: like boxed vanilla cake mix combined with a heavy musk with a touch of Christmas nutmeg. She loved to play the piano, and I’ll never forget the confident way she tapped the keys. Her chin was always up, looking at the sheet music and the lift on the side of her lips said, “This is the best fun I’m having in my whole life.” The self-assurance she demonstrated on a day-to-day basis inspired me to act in kind.
When she called me up next to the piano and told me to sing a few notes, I belted it out as if there were a record producer in the classroom looking for the next big star. I didn’t care if the other kids made fun of me for being “too into it”; I did what Ms. Nichols did and lifted the side of my lips on a high chin. Ms. Nichols was in charge of the choir, and I made sure to sign up. After two years, Ms. Nichols finally gave me the solo and because of the confidence she taught in her actions, I wasn’t scared.
My school had a program called Adopt-A-Student, and I was thrilled when Ms. Nichols “adopted” me. The teachers and students in the program went on field trips, and I was happy when we went to Red Lobster and the movie theater. Okay, it was the $1.50 movie theater (do they still have those around?),but the effort was there.
I was sad when I left middle school. Ms. Nichols was the one teacher who made going there special. The confidence she taught me was something I took to high school and beyond. I oftentimes wonder if she remembers me, if she still works in that school. I’m not a Facebook person, so I never searched for her; however, I keep the memories with me and hope that one day I can inspire a student with my confidence. Who knows? Maybe one day someone will say, “I remember Mrs. Andujar – she smelled like…”
I hope I smell good. Who knows.
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