Another Ancestor Mentor: Mrs. Ebbs
When I was in seventh and eighth grade I had an English teacher, Mrs. Ebbs, who taught me how to write. Mrs. Ebbs was a plump and stout woman who smoked on her breaks and had one of those raucous personalities that everyone is drawn to, particularly we kids. She seemed to love her work and us, and we were all drawn to her exuberance. When I remember Mrs. Ebbs, I remember that laugh of hers and her sense of humor that carried us through the school day.
I also remember the Cuban missile crisis, for it was during this crisis that I managed to go to her large oak desk in the upper righthand corner of the room and articulate the unanswerable question: Are we going to be killed by a nuclear bomb? I don’t remember her answer. I do remember being slightly relieved by being able to ask. But later that month standing in the hallway of our home I overheard Mrs. Ebbs tell the women in my mother’s bridge club (for she was also a member of that group of eight) that her students were frightened and disturbed by the collective events. Perhaps that is the crux of my relationship with Mrs. Ebbs: she took us kids and our concerns, seriously.
Most kids dreaded spring when she taught creative writing. Each day for six weeks she gave us a topic and we were to return the next morning with a one page theme. In class she taught the building blocks of language and of writing: metaphor and simile, descriptions and diagraming sentences. She encouraged us to write about what we knew. Each morning she read one or two themes she had graded the night before. It was a real honor to have your paper read aloud, or it was for me.
So the morning that she read the following paper, I basked in her praise. But it was not just praise. There are mentors who show us paths that are attuned to our soul’s agenda, and Mrs. Ebbs did that for me. She is the reason I kept writing, the reason I write about what I know, reveling in the jewel of Present.
I was born and raised in the fading culture of the small farm, and many of my papers were about the particulars of farm life. I see the seeds of Farming Soul from way back then in the following paper, whose topic that day was to be patriotic. I dedicate it now to dear Mrs. Ebbs, wherever she may be.
The smell of meat, mashed potatoes, peas, corn, and hot rolls fill the kitchen as five hungry men tramp onto the back porch and remove their hats. It is hot and humid; the men are wet with perspiration and grimy with ground-in dirt. There is happiness as Mother greets them and as they slowly crowd into the bathroom to wash up. After a morning of honest, hard work in the fragrant wheat field, they are tired and hungry.
As everyone sits down and after grace is said, the men begin talking “Wheat Talk” and eat a well-balanced meal. Then again they climb into their dirty trucks and sit down on blistering hot seats to return to the smell of the stink bug, the dust of the combine, and hard work.
This is one of the many things I think of when I think of “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”
Do you have mentors from your early years who have made a difference in helping your find your path? Please comment below.