In response to the WordPress Discover Challenge, “The Things We Leave Behind“
It well may be that we may never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part, so much of me is made from what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart!
Last year was my last year of High School. Every day since I started, I ate lunch with Mrs. Hemmings’ special education students. It was the highlight of my day! They were my best friends. Each one had a heart of gold. I loved spending time with them.
Eating lunch with them on the last day of High School went the same as it did every other day. I listened as my friend Jake played a song on his keyboard, chatted with Roger the student assistant as I ate lunch and then played bowling on the Wii with my friends Race, Kendra, and Evan. Even though I was happy to be with my friends, there was a heavy feeling in my heart knowing this was my last time. I hated hearing the 1:20 bell signaling the end of lunch. When it sounded, I spent a few moments saying my goodbyes to each student and giving a few last high fives. It was very hard for me to do! When I high-fived my friend Alan I didn’t want to take my hand off his! When I got home, I made the sad realization that I may never see many of these wonderful, unique people again. I felt the quote I posted at the top was very fitting for that moment. I’ve made so many memories and learned a lot from these students and they will be with me just like a hand print on my heart. These are a few of my favorite memories of them.
One day, they had a movie day. I had no classes and so was invited to join them! I brought in “Annie” (the original version from 1982) because I knew it was my friend Katie’s favorite movie. It’s mine too! To make things fair we had a vote and “Annie” came out on top! We all had such fun singing along to the songs together! I’ve watched “Annie” well over a million times and each time, when Annie and Daddy Warbucks sing the reprise of “Maybe” it turns me into a sobbing mess!
It’ll be fine. No need to fear. She’ll be as happy as she was here. Things will work out much better than planned. It makes you smile when fate takes a hand. I know I’ll forget how much she meant to me and how she was almost my baby, maybe.
I’m tearing up now just typing that excerpt out!! Anyway, when it got to that part and I cried, the students all comforted me! My friend Katie held my hand, a few others hugged me and my friend Hayley gently said “It’s ok Leah! Don’t cry. I’m here.” That was so sweet of them!
When the students have a Birthday, Mrs. Hemmings always throws them a little party at lunchtime and bakes a cake! Katie is a huge Disney fan so a few years ago, on her Birthday she got a Goofy cake! After everyone had a piece, Katie went into the kitchen to help with the dishes. She saw Goofy’s vanilla flavored face mangled and missing pieces and exclaimed, with a look of terror on her face “Goofy died!”
One day, I was sitting with one of my best friends, Dominique. Totally out of the blue, she looked at me and asked: “What doing the weekend?” That was a first for her! I was so proud! I told her “I have a lot of plans! On Friday night, I’m going to youth group at Church. My friends and I are going to hang out and have pizza! On Saturday, I’m going to my friend Peter’s house for a voice lesson. On Sunday I haven’t got anything planned. What do you think I should do?” “Watch movie!” she said. My level of pride shot up even higher! That was the first time Dominique had initiated and carried out a conversation!
Dominique loved to draw. She was quite the artist! Almost every day after she finished her lunch, she would politely ask “Crayons please.” and when I gave them to her she let loose on the paper making the most beautiful abstract art that I thought belonged in a gallery. It was the most incredible thing to watch! She always seemed to know just what colors go together. Her drawings were all so vibrant and wonderful! Looking at them made me happy! She had her own unique way of signing them too. She loved writing the word “poo” on her drawings! LOL!
Every day the students would do the dishes after lunch. Mrs. Rideout, one of the student assistants would come into the classroom with a big wash bucket so she could fill it with soap and water for the students in the other special needs classroom across the hallway (my high school had two) so they could do their dishes. Before she left, she would always sneak up behind Hayley and put soap suds in her hair! The first handful of times the poor dear never saw it coming! Nevertheless, she would crack up laughing, as would everyone else! Eventually, she knew it was coming and was prepared. She would try and defend herself, but Mrs. Rideout still got her! She never misses! Hayley did get her back a few times though. Those few times were awesome!
In grade 11, I got a wonderful surprise from them! Not being one of her students, I didn’t expect anything from her, but on my 16th Birthday I came into the classroom and on the desk where I usually sit there was a pile of Birthday cards the students made for me! I was touched by this very thoughtful gesture. I read each of the cards and my heart melted! They were each absolutely beautiful! They were my favorite cards that I received that year. When I went into the kitchen to use their microwave, I saw a cake on the counter! I couldn’t believe she had baked me a cake too! I felt so special! It hadn’t been iced yet so I wondered what design she had chosen for mine. I was excited to find out! That time came and when she brought the cake out to me, my jaw dropped and I couldn’t believe my eyes! She made me a Spirit of Newfoundland cake!!!As you all know, I am a Spirit of Newfoundland superfan! This was the best cake anyone had ever made me!
I have a weak stomach. I can’t handle graphic things. When one of my classes (particularly workplace safety and bio) was going to do a gruesome experiment or watch something graphic, the teachers know I have a weak and squeamish stomach so they would allow me to leave. I really appreciated that in times like this Mrs. Hemmings welcomed me into her classroom activities with open arms! Hanging out with her and her students is a thousand times better than watching a graphic re-enactment of a workplace accident or dissecting a chicken heart!
When I was in grade 4, the special education teacher at my elementary school would take me out of class a few times a week to help her teach a group of 1st-grade boys with Autism. I taught them reading, spelling, and typing. Last September, on my first day, I paid a visit to my friends in Mrs. Hemmings’ classroom. I missed them so much during the summer and was so happy to get to see them again! There was a new student in the class who looked very familiar to me but I couldn’t place exactly where I knew him from. He introduced himself as Evan. Then it clicked! “Oh my goodness!” I thought to myself. “That’s Evan from elementary school! I helped teach him! I feel old!” I never thought I’d see him again! It was a really pleasant surprise! Even more pleasant was that he remembered me! I couldn’t believe how tall he’d gotten and how grown up he was. I was very proud of him.
I got to do a really cool science experiment with them once! We got to see, feel and smell the weather! I don’t remember what many of them smelled like, but feeling the weather was fun. I liked the wind the best. The teacher pointed a handheld fan at each of us. The blast of cool air was very refreshing. I didn’t like feeling the cold, snowy weather. We held onto an ice pack! Brrr!
Every now and then, they go bowling in the cafeteria with a plastic lawn bowling set. Sometimes, they would let me join them. That was always lots of fun!
One of the students, Jake, was in a wheelchair. Just like me, he loved music! Every day after he finished his lunch, he would relax by turning on the fan and his multicolored disco ball and listening to music. He loved ABBA, Johnny Cash, Johnny Reid and Great Big Sea. I loved to sit with him and sing along. I could tell he loved it too by the way his face lit up. I think the two of us sounded great together, especially when we sang ABBA!
In grade 11, my friend Samantha and I signed up to perform in a Christmas coffee house, a small performance in the drama room during lunch where students could recite poetry, do a skit or sing a song. She volunteered in Mrs. Hemmings’ classroom too, so every day, after we ate we would go into the kitchen and rehearse. The song we chose to sing was “Where Are You Christmas” by Faith Hill. One day, as we were rehearsing, Katie came in and joined us! We gave Faith Hill a run for her money that afternoon! It was the most beautiful rendition of the song I’d ever heard!
One of Katie’s favorite bands is The Wiggles. I’m a Wiggles fan too! I don’t care how old I am, doing the propeller is fun! Anyway, I have a few Wiggles songs on my iPod and every day at lunch last year, she would ask me to turn on The Wiggles and the two of us would have a dance party! We’d do the Monkey Dance and Hot Potato and laugh till we cried! I loved it!
One night, I went out to Jungle Jim’s with my family. I accompanied my Niece to the treasure chest to get her toy, and in the chest, I found dozens of clown noses! I instantly thought of my friends Mrs. Hemmings’ class. I took a handful and gave them out the next day. They spent all recess pretending to be clowns! It was awesome!
Friday was my favorite day of the week at school because it was fudge day! Mrs. Hemmings’ students made and sold fudge to raise money for field trips and other things. The fudge they made wasn’t fudge at all, but a little piece of heaven! I swear I heard angels sing every time I bit into a piece! It was so soft, creamy and absolutely delicious! It came in so many yummy flavors! My favorite was the seasonal candy cane fudge they made. Year round, my favorite was cookie dough! I was one of their best customers. I don’t know how much 50 cents a week every week for three and a half years (I had to come back and do world history over again last year) is, but however much it totals, it was worth it!
Brooke was the classroom diva! She’s non-verbal and in a wheelchair, but she’s still your typical teenage girl. She had a sassy attitude and loved to stick her tongue out! She also loved blowing kisses to all the boys, including teachers!
Brooke also loved storybooks. One of her favorites was “Red Is Best” by Kathy Stinson. One day, as she was listening to that book, I said to Mrs. Hemmings “To Brooke, purple is best!” That gave me an idea! “Hey!” I exclaimed “That’s a good idea for a book! Maybe someday Brooke could write it!” Mrs. Hemmings said, “Maybe you could!” I had never written a book before but thought it would be fun so I said sure. I went home that night and wrote “I Love Purple”. It wasn’t much, just 10 pages of stock photos from Google Images with two sentences per page typed in purple ink, held together with a staple in the top corner, but I hoped it would make Brooke happy. I brought it to school the next day and when I showed it to Brooke, a huge smile came across her face! As I read her the story she squealed, laughed, flailed her arms and bounced in her chair. My heart overflowed with happiness! Seeing Brooke so overjoyed with the book I wrote her meant so much to me. To this day I still write books and Mrs. Hemmings’ class is always the first to read my manuscripts. I love seeing their reactions as I read my stories.
I left many of them behind when I left high school, but their memories still remain in my heart. I think about them all often and wonder what has become of them. I sincerely hope that life has brought them all nothing but wonderful things!