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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith


There Go the Letters!
March, 1987

The weekend weather was warm and balmy, much like an early summer day in Chicago. But nice weather in March never lasts long, and a cold front moved in on Sunday night, dropping the temperature some 40 degrees in an hour. All night, the wind howled and whistled through cracks in the window frame, and the old frame building where I lived shook with the wind's gusts. Although Chicago got its nickname, “The Windy City” from turn of the century politicians, there were times when the city tried to live up to its nickname.

It was a challenge, that morning, to walk to the car carrying my usual armload of school stuff. I had pinned my beret to my head that morning, so the wind couldn't snatch it away. After parking in the school lot, I headed towards the school entrance, pushed along by an invisible hand. Suddenly, the student papers that had been firmly stuffed into my purse were whipped out into the busy street that ran in front of the school. If these had been ordinary student papers I would have watched and laughed as the papers blew around and under the rush hour traffic.

But! These papers had to be rescued! The papers now flying in and out between parked cars and under tires were the precious e-mail pen pal letters sent to my students from a school in Newfoundland. Since I routinely deleted the messages after downloading them, those bits of computer paper flying around Ashland Ave. were the secret messages and cheerful gossip being sent from one fifth grade class to another. A day without mail always brought groans of disappointment, and now, these much anticipated letters were sailing quickly out of reach. (Editor's note: In 1987, personal computers were new, and my science class had the only computer in the school. Students would write notes to their pen pals during scheduled time slots during the day, and at the end of the day, I would save their messages to a floppy disk. Each evening at home I would send the e-mails to the Canadian school and download any replies that were sent back to my students.)

Dedicated teacher that I was (and admittedly slightly crazed, at times), I tossed my purse and thermos at the nearest student and took off after the flying letters. There went one middle-aged schoolteacher jogging down the middle of a busy Chicago street, grabbing at flying papers. A kind passerby, who was crossing the street, saw what I was doing and stepped on one paper. An older student helpfully crawled underneath a parked car to retrieve another paper. Finally, I had them all, except for one paper that had entwined itself on a windshield wiper of a moving car and was now several blocks away.

Firmly gripping the tire-marked and dusty papers firmly in my hand, one huffing and puffing teacher turned back into the wind. Amidst the laughter and cheers of students, I stumbled up the stairs and into the building, muttering to myself that it just had to be a Monday morning.

Copyright © 2004 Anne Wallingford All Rights Reserved

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Thursday, July 29, 2004