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June 26, 2013


The Teacher I Never Forgot..

This experience was inspired by Oprah Winfrey's televised reunion with her favourite teacher - the one who thought Oprah was special. It was a touching moment that sent her into the famous 'ugly cry.'

In 1955 at the age of eight, my grade 3 teacher Miss Mortimer presented me with a glossy, hard-cover copy of ''The Bobbsey Twins in the Country,'' as a prize for something I wrote.  

Unfortunately, the book was lost in one of our many moves, as my abusive father was determined to keep us isolated by not staying in one place for very long. While the prize winning words I wrote escape me now, I will never forget what that book represented to my life of chaos at home. 

School was my sanctuary and Miss Mortimer was my refuge - I loved her and it would be the most magical year and a half of my childhood.  I never forgot her.  Amazingly, she would have only been 18 years old when she began her teaching career in that one-room, country schoolhouse in northern Ontario's bush country.  

I was quick to respond to the attention she showered upon me, as it felt like unconditional love to my wounded child's heart.  She was never too busy for my whims and  ideas and continued to nurture my artistic soul.
"Miss Mortimer, I wrote this play; can we perform it in school?"   

I sensed that she recognized something special in me as she nurtured my budding passion for writing. Enthused by her support, I wrote stories, plays and even musical lyrics.  Whenever we had to stand up in front of the class and read our work out loud, I was always saved until last.  I never asked why, I only knew that it made me feel special... best for last. 

Good Life
After many years of working for a large corporation just to earn a living, I eventually found myself with the opportunity to try my hand at some free-lance writing. Not a career exactly (I would have starved to death) but a gift, a chance to explore.  I began with a weekly, newspaper column, graduating to some special feature articles covering serious subjects. Following that I went on to scout magazine-worthy homes and write articles for several, Canadian decor & life-style magazines (another passion).   

Canadian Home & Country

Canadian House and Home
The Orangeville Banner
After several years of attempting to find my 'voice,' I launched my 'Tapping Fingers' blog to showcase my stories and opinion pieces, covering favourite subjects and experiences I hoped would be interesting enough to share.  Although the real intent for the blog was to make me a more disciplined writer, with a view to a book or play, there are still long gaps between my posts... but, I'm finally back.

Along this journey of self discovery, I've continued to keep an eye out for my book, I'll know it right away because it was personally inscribed to me by Miss Mortimer as follows;   
 "Presented to Linda Borland as a prize for her letter to Santa Claus."  
I continue to scan the shelves of thrift shops and second-hand bookstores to this day, with a strong hope of finding it. Stranger things have happened and I believe that if I put it 'out there' into the ethers, somehow it may find it's way back to me.

The catalyst for deciding to try and find Miss Mortimer came the day that I was watching Oprah having an emotional reunion with her favourite teacher, with whom she had a special connection. I wanted to try and find Miss Mortimer before it was too late ~ no regrets.  I wanted her to know all she'd meant to me as she had no idea what my home life was like at the time.  I also wanted to share some of the small successes I'd had with my writing and give her credit due for having played an important part in the nurturing of my creative spirit.

Much to my surprise it took a quick internet search and one phone call to find her ~ when something is meant to be, right?  But, each time I picked up the phone to call her I'd hang up because I'd get too choked up to speak. I had things to say and didn't want to sound like a snivelling idiot the first time we spoke. So, I wrote her a letter from my heart, unedited, telling her what she'd meant to me and the significance of her unknowing gift all those years ago. I included my e-mail address and phone number and it wasn't long before she responded.  I was 'over the moon' with pure joy.  

She seemed genuinely happy to hear from me. I mentioned the book of course and she recalled it, adding that it had actually belonged to her - making it even more special to me.  I explained that it had been lost, but I had never stopped looking for it and how I'd memorized the inscription and felt strongly that one day, I'd find it. 

We continued to write back and forth for a few years, exchanging pictures of the country schoolhouse and special friends, not forgotten. She had gone on to marry and raise a family and as it turns out, was living only a few hours away.  We eventually made arrangements to meet at her home.  

When she opened the door, although I might not have recognized her elsewhere, I immediately knew her smile.  We enjoyed warm hugs and introduced us (my husband came with me) to her husband and other family members who had wanted to meet me.  I teared up when her husband told me how she had so proudly shown that letter to everyone she knew in their small town. 
Miss Mortimer's Smile
We poured over her photo album of treasured pictures that included me standing with my classmates in front of the schoolhouse, Miss Mortimers hand resting on my shoulder - so significant all these years later (unfortunately those photos are too small to publish here). 
 She provided a nice lunch for us and afterwards she took me to her garden where we picked a late harvest of her vegetables for me to take away, along with memories of a perfect day, a dream realized and promises to keep in touch.  It wasn't long afterwards that I received a letter with a separate, hand-written note from Miss Mortimer that evoked more tears ~ it read 

"Presented to Linda Borland as a prize for her 'Letter To Santa Claus."  ~ Miss Mortimer 

I tucked it away inside the copy of 'The Bobbsey Twins In The Country' that I'd picked up on one of my searches. It wasn't my copy but it will do until the original shows up, like a ghost from the most magical time of my childhood.  Her words, written then and now, continue to  inspire me. 
Miss Mortimer August 8, 2009

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