1980-2000--When Bette was Mrs. T

A.P. English Class
A.P English Class
Winchester High School, Class of 2000
9C2 Kids
College II English Class
Winchester High School, Class of 2003
9H English Class
9 Honors English Class
Winchester High School, Class of 2003

  "O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in't."

  --from The Tempest, V.i.,William Shakespeare

Why think of a second career after 25 satisfying years in the first one? Why consider a change that is financially ludicrous? Why begin a new career just as peers tout retirement joys: morning golf, leisurely lunch, afternoon bridge, and early bird specials? "It doesn't make sense!" "She must have hated her job all along!" "Maybe they drove her out just to get rid of her!" All are reasonable assumptions, but in my case none is true.

I liked my job as high school English teacher. I liked my students, my colleagues, my honors classes, the fine school system, and the pretty town. And, nominated by a former AP student, I even made the 2000 edition of Who's Who Among America's Teachers.

My friend Helen was the inspiration for my sudden career change. She died on April 10, 2000, after a year battling leukemia. We met as summer residents on Great Neck, in Ipswich, Massachusetts, when we were children.

Except for the three weeks in January 2000 that Helen spent with her husband in Seattle trying one last experimental treatment, I saw Helen every day of her final year. While she slept in a room on Ellison 14, Massachusetts General Hospital, I worked on my ever-present stack of student papers or prepared for my classes, to that point a major focus of my life. When she came home, I would stop in after school. Sometimes we took short, slow walks, new to both of us. We talked, as we always had, about our kids and our husbands, and we talked about her death and our lives.

Helen was a Simmons library science graduate, but she worked only briefly as a librarian. Her husband got rich. She didn't need to work. They traveled and skied and sailed. She didn't have time to work. I was the one who ended up with the career, a career that during Helen's last year seemed increasingly burdensome to me.

Before Helen died, she gave me her Volvo, the only car she had ever picked out for herself. I made my decision to leave teaching, then my decision to work in the library at Salem State College, then my decision to apply to Simmons. My driving to my Simmons classes in her car would have pleased Helen immensely. I promised her that when I graduated, I'd put a Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science sticker on the car window--for both of us!

Helen's Page

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