Having a school Annual was a big deal to me. Not only did the Annual capture pictures of our classmates and the school year’s events but friends passed them to friends to write in – thoughts on whatever – events that had happened, looking ahead, good wishes, and the like. They were a treasure – and still are. I desperately wanted one. When I was in 5th grade, Mrs. Gregory’s room, Ann Davis (later Matheny) came into our room to announce that money would be collected the next day for school annuals. Ann was in high school on the Wak-high-an Annual staff. She was also my friend Susan’s big sister. Ann was wearing a London Fog raincoat and penny loafers – the epitome of cool. Knowing she was on the Annual Staff made the Annual even more appealing. I watched her casual manner wondering if I could ever attain such ease. I wanted to feel hopeful but figured if owning an Annual was out of the question then maybe other things were as well. Daddy’s business was struggling to get off the ground and there was no extra money for anything. I understood the phrase “pinching pennies” in a very personal way. Nevertheless, that night I told Mama how much I wanted an Annual. Mama understood. She did not chide me for wanting something that would stretch our family’s budget. She knew it was important to belong. She asked if I had any money in my piggy bank? Yes, I had some coins there but not enough. Mama had some rolled coins, some change in her purse and loose change stuffed here and there. She gathered everything she could find. Then we counted it and happily there was just enough. It was after banking hours and so there was nothing to do but put all the collected coins in a paper bag, which I took to school the next day. When the Wak-high-an staff showed up I was proud to be among those who lined up to pay for my annual. When it was my turn I walked up to Ann Davis and self-consciously handed her my paper bag. Without a word she looked inside and then plunked down at Mrs. Gregory’s desk, poured out the money, and began counting. Mrs. Gregory rolled her eyes and sighed audibly indicating her displeasure. I was beyond embarrassed. I expected that Ann might communicate agreement with my teacher, either verbally or by another impatient gesture, and so I apologized. Ann looked up at me, shrugged and said, “Money is money.” Period. Then she nonchalantly continued counting the coins. It was clear that she couldn’t have cared less if I had handed her all pennies. I felt reprieved. I suspect Ann never thought another thing about that day but I have never forgotten it. I was so grateful for her gracious attitude that relieved me of my embarrassment. Her actions endeared her to me for life. It was the first year that I was able to have a school annual and I was so proud when they arrived and I was able to stand in line to collect mine. I still have it.
Sounds like you came away with a lot more than a yearbook that day, Linda. Experiencing kindness like that is priceless. What a wonderful memory!
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Thank you, Linda, for the lovely stories that remind me of kindness shown in small ways. They are all around us aren’t they?