Looking Up

by Cindi on October 19, 2018

I was driving along, thinking about the teaching conference ahead, when she said, “Wow. That’s a really cool cloud.” I looked up briefly, eyes off the road to the sky, and thought the clouds looked normal to me. Then she started identifying them: “That one’s a cumulus, that’s a cirrus, and that’s a cirrostratus.” My friend Jean was a science teacher, and I was her captive student in the car – she was always teaching.

That night, after checking into our hotel, we went to a movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was 1991, and we were middle school team leaders, young teachers with small children at home; we were energetic and passionate about our careers, heading across the state to learn a few things and bring new information back to our school.

In the hotel room that night I picked up whatever book my students were reading in language arts, and Jean picked up something else: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I asked her if she was seriously reading that stuff, and she started explaining the theory to me, step by step. I told her she was brilliant and entertaining, but I was ready to sleep. I closed my eyes that night with my hotel roommate still reading with the light on. I smiled, happy to have the opportunity to hang out every day with such smart teachers.

We continued on…teaching down the hall from each other for three more years. Then we were selected to change schools, to move across the county after a city-school/county-school district merge. Four of us would transfer to a different middle school, an attempt to provide familiar faces for our eighth graders who were also moving. We taught together there for four additional years.

As it turned out, Jean would teach 8th grade science to three of my own children, standing in front of them in the classroom and then sitting beside me in faculty meetings. I found myself in her home on many after school occasions; I bought the baby shower cake when her son was on the way and the chips and dip to card night.

Later, as I traveled the state as North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year, Jean had become an administrator by then, and she would invite me to her school to present to the staff. Four separate times I stood before her colleagues in the school’s media center and told them stories of teaching side-by-side with her. Every time was a reunion, a “Remember when this happened?” “Remember that student?” “Where is that teacher now?” Every time.

Every time was a chance to catch up on our own kids, too, the ones that she taught and the ones I had celebrated at baby showers and watched as toddlers in the protective shadow of their amazing mom.

She remained the most brilliant of stars, and I was happy every time I saw her. She was a piece of my past, one of the few who, as I always say, “knew me when I was me.”

But tonight I was crushed by an email…then a news article…about a car that crossed a center line. And now, my friend Jean, the teacher down the hall, has been taken away from her students, the school that she loved, and her family.

I’ll continue, though, as I have for years, to think of her every time I look at a cloud.

I’m pretty sure – Mrs. Ransom, team leader of the Dolphin Team at Chewning Middle School – I’ll see you there.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ardiana Nati October 19, 2018 at 2:21 am

Beautiful story, may she Rest In Peace. I am really sorry for the loss of your friend. Prayers and thoughts with you and her family.


2 Marian October 19, 2018 at 3:41 am

Yes. This. When I’m struck deeply and at a loss for words, I have an ever-increasing admiration for your ability to write as if you know the very depths of my feelings. The place in my heart for my Chewning friends is tender and dear to me. Tonight, it’s the love for and memories of those people (and their families) that makes me vascillate between weeping and smiling.


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