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Picking the right, winning blossom

Miss Flora Lightbody, my elementary school music teacher, was an enthusiastic, delightful lady who even now occupies a special place in my memory. I’m not the only one who remembers her fondly. Like all good teachers she left a lasting impression on many.

But Miss Lightbody wasn’t. The origin of her surname may have been predicated on a family trait for agility but I’m confident slightness played no part in it.

When I was seven years old and under the tutelage of Miss Lightbody our hospital was undergoing one of its many expansions. I believe it was on a Sunday morning that my Mother and her friend Millie took me to a fundraising benefit for this new hospital addition. It was an ice cream social held on the hospital’s front lawn. As is common with such affairs a group of volunteers was in charge. One of those volunteers was Miss Lightbody.

When it came to things ice cream, my Mother would always order me an adult sized portion, fully aware I could never finish it. She and Millie would then split what I could not consume thereby obtaining an enhanced portion without having to be seen ordering one.

To keep me occupied during this overage consumption I was provided a sum sufficient to purchase a blossom.

The blossoms were on a “Blossom Tree” and were made of paper mache of various colors. Each blossom contained a number which related to a prize. If you were lucky enough to pick the right blossom you would win the grand prize. I paid the 50 cents my Mother had given me and picked a blossom.

Befitting a good second-grader, I took my blossom to Miss Lightbody to learn what grade my choice would earn. She reviewed my submission, compared it to those listed on the prize sheet, paused — then let out with a shriek!

I had won the grand prize!

The agility of generations of Lightbodys came to the fore and sprang into action as she scooped me up and enfolded much of the 45 pounds of me into the ampleness of her bosom.

All went dark.

Though I experienced a vague feeling of familiarity I had no specific memory of the place. I couldn’t see, move, feel, hear, speak, or breathe. It was a venue from which I must soon be delivered.

And I was — reborn just in time to hear my name mentioned and the announcement being made that I had won the grand prize — a half ton of coal! My Grandmother burned coal in her parlor stove and in her kitchen range. It was she who became the ultimate recipient of the only grand prize I have ever won.

Many people receive life long benefit from the influence of a teacher. My college roommate, graphic artist Ron Wagner, Alpena Community College art instructor Gene Reiman, and illustrator and cartoonist Elwood Smith all credit their Alpena High School art teacher, Nancy Feindt, as the genesis of their success. Elwood’s brother Dave credits his teacher Dale Isley with providing him the encouragement he needed to become an industrial arts teacher.

My friend John Kaufman and many others gained a lifelong appreciation for the stage and literature because of the revelations of Alpena High School drama and English teacher Blanche Hockett.

How many aspiring engineers and math teachers were able to move closer to their goals through the advanced instruction of ACC mathematics instructor emeritus Herb Gamage?

I could go on naming people whose perspectives were broadened through the dedication and special knowledge of a teacher.

However, for me, awareness was not enhanced by dedication or the special knowledge of a teacher. It was by Miss Flora Lightbody’s deliverance of me from a limiting, enveloping environment — and the winning of a grand prize.

Doug Pugh’s Vignettes run bi-weekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached via email at pughda@gmail.com.