What remains in my heart of second grade is love, oddly enough, and in heavy doses. I don't know how to say it otherwise: I was in love with Miss DeVries. I'm sure I learned some arithmetic, worked on my penmanship and some kind of science stuff; but all of that is neatly shelved somewhere else. What I remember can be described only in these words: I was in love. Whether or not Miss DeVries showered me with favor, I don't know. Was I a teacher's pet? I really don't think so. But I thought the feelings were delightfully reciprocal.
But then, maybe I was just one of many. Maybe I wasn't as special as my memory argues. Maybe this passionate longing I felt to be near her was all just me. Maybe she never knew. Maybe a seven or eight year old's imagination is capable of creating wonderfully sweet tales that unabashedly feature no one other than yourself. Maybe ego is simply a way of life and not a sin when you're a kid. Maybe.
Years later, when I was somewhere in my thirties and speaking at a teachers’ convention in Wisconsin, Miss DeVries came up and introduced herself. She was married of course, which, even then, was a little sad; but I recognized her immediately, even though I remember thinking that there was something of a grandma's soft puffiness in her face a quarter century later. She was heavier too, but how could I forget her! Still—honestly—years later, my soul piped a lovely song when I saw her, almost as if, really, little had changed.
Let's be clear. In second grade, I loved my teacher.
And I should add this. I had a girlfriend too, my first, a little girl named Mary. Somehow I remember Miss DeVries sort of enjoying that match, as if Mary and I were a couple of her own childhood dolls pairing up sweetly.
When you're eight years old, polygamy is no particular problem. No one gets hurt. No one feels jealousy. It's all just love. Sounds hippy-ish.
Maybe second grade--1957--was some kind of precursor to the Sixties: "Love is all you need, love is all you need, love is all you need."
It's certainly all I remember.