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In Memory of Alice Davis

Carl Thress | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I read the unthinkable tonight: one of my favorite high school teachers, Mrs. Alice Davis, is dead. She had gone missing last week. A few days later, her husband (the prime suspect in the case) committed suicide. Yesterday, a body was discovered in the woods behind a church, not far from her home. Today, that body was positively identified. More details are sure to emerge (there were signs of trauma), but that’s just denouement. Mrs. Davis is dead, and nothing can change that now.

I first met Mrs. Davis when she was still Miss Parsons. I was a freshman and was allowed to take her creative writing class, usually reserved for upperclassmen. The following year, I had her for sophomore English class (as Mrs. Davis).

Last weekend, I dug out my old journal from creative writing class and started rereading all of the comments Miss Parsons left in the margins alongside my entries. Always supportive. Always positive. Always encouraging.

After an entry about my shyness and my fear that I would never change, she wrote, “You will. I used to be the same way. When you get older and more sure of yourself, you’ll relax and the real, wonderful you will come out!”

To a 15-year-old kid lamenting his inability to find a date, she wrote, “Don’t worry about dating. You’ll soon find someone who realizes how special you are!”

After another entry, where I compared life to an escalator ride (full of ups and downs), she wrote, “Mostly I’m on a down escalator trying to get up to the top.”

When I wrote about the hope of seeing my name in print, as the author of a book, she replied, “I have a feeling some day you will.”

But my favorite note came toward the end of the journal, where she wrote, “Carl, your writing is always enjoyable to read. Keep at it; you’ve got what it takes! It has been a pleasure to have you in class.”

Writing had been important to me even before I took Miss Parsons’ class, but that level of encouragement strengthened my confidence and helped reinforce my decision to make a living with words. I only wish I could have somehow written a worthier ending for Mrs. Davis. She deserved far better than she got, and she will be sorely missed.

Stepping down from my soapbox and depositing two pennies in the jar...

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