For the majority of my youth, the biggest constant in my life was the Superintendent’s Office of Independent School District #206. My mom was there. Front and center. Answering all the calls. Directing the traffic. She was the face, the heart of the school. And more than often, the cog that kept the whole thing running.
She became friends with the others — the ones with doors and titles, the ones she allowed to take credit for the daily operations of the district. But they knew. I knew. And sometimes, even she did. I suppose that’s what made this place so special — what lured me in, each day before school, each day after school.
It was Dr. Hovda who had the biggest office. Then Mr. Elton. My mom’s desk anchoring both. (Clayton, Wayne and Ivy) I can’t pretend to tell you I knew the “politics” of the administration. I know some disagreed with policies. I heard them from time to time shouting through my mom’s earpiece, running through the transferred line, behind the closed doors. But I can tell you this, for sure and for certain — what they gave to my mother (so in turn to me). They gave her her smile back. They included her, in the conversation, the joke, the discussion, the life of this office. Within those walls she became more confident. More skilled. More beautiful! And I went every day to see it. To rest in it. The grace of my mother in 206!
So that’s what real men do, I thought.
“A” was the highest grade you could receive. That’s all I wanted — “A”s. For myself. My mother. This place. When I received my report card — yes, it came on paper then, my mom told me to go show Wayne. I shook my head. “Ok, first of all, for me, it’s Mr. Elton…” “Go ahead,” she urged. “Why????” my brow furrowed. “It’ll be good,” she said. I was still not convinced. “Look,” she said, “He’s wearing plaid…”
“What difference does that make?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she giggled. My mother could send me down almost any path with a giggle. So I walked into his office. I didn’t know what to say, so I just handed him my report card. “Well, Dr. Hills, I presume…” He started calling me that — Doctor. He told me I could be anything. That I should keep going to school. He made me believe it, I, was possible.
So that’s what real educators do, I thought.
I shared with him my grades throughout high school. Then through college. We would come to talk about golf, and convertibles. My mother. How he liked to eat desserts right out of the pan. And just like my mother, I called him my friend.
The office has slowly emptied. Mr. Elton went to see my mom and Dr. Hovda. What an office party! I thought. Together! Still laughing, becoming, supporting – because that’s what real friends do.