Friday, January 9, 2015

Miami Memories: A Lasting Imprint

I'm one of the few 6%, and I have Mrs. Louise Watson, Shari Lewis, and Minnie Pearl to thank for that.  Not long ago The Today show discussed career choices people have made.  In a study in the Journal of Social Forces, just 6% of adults have ended up in the careers they had aspired to when they were kids. Then I considered mine, and what about my friends or classmates.  Did any of us even think about careers back then?  If we did was it a dream, a goal, a vision of the future, or was there someone we wanted to be?  

For as long as I can remember I really just wanted to be a mother, secretly a comedian, but LuJean Howard was already our class clown, so that job was taken.   I loved performing tricks at my parent's parties, and telling stories to the neighborhood kids, but Hollywood never beckoned me.  If I were going to go to college then of course, I would be a teacher, but sometimes I dreamed of becoming a race car driver or a world traveler who published stories about exotic places to visit.    By high school, I knew after reading On the Beach that I'd become an English teacher, move to Australia, then naturally, I'd make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people and change the world along the way, if we lived that long. 


Along the way life opened and closed several other doors before I found my calling and career.  By age 19 I was already a substitute teacher, then I worked with Head Start after Katy was born, but my lucky break came when the Miami Public Library needed a children's librarian.  Suddenly, I had the best job in the world, and it blossomed to be one of the best choices of my life.  The Saturday morning and afternoon story hours were empty because there was a new yellow big bird on television that had garnered every ones attention.  To be honest I was nervous about telling stories to children, so when no one arrived I felt relieved, but then it became a challenge.  How to fill the library with children at all hours of the day.  I began to reflect on my recent childhood and recalled how much I loved Minnie Pearl, Shari Lewis, and so many entertainers I'd see on the Ed Sullivan Show.  


One day I found an old puppet in a closet and brought it to life when the puppet found the warmth of my hand and saw the smile on my face.  I imagined I was Shari Lewis talking to Lamb Chops.  I then taught myself how to make puppets, so children coming to story hour would have puppets to use. 



Serendipitously, a class on storytelling was being offered and I thought, "how perfect and so easy."  I was so wrong.  I worked day and night for three weeks to learn one story that only lasted about eight minutes!  In the end, I was hooked, and I spent the rest of my life pursuing stories to tell for children and adults.  How lucky can one person be. I did my best to reflect on the smile and
enthusiasm of Minnie Pearl.  Her voice still echos in my mind, "How Deeee folks. I'm jist so proud to be here."  Her smiling face convinced me that she meant every word she spoke. Her jokes and funny stories made us all laugh, and I loved to hear my parents laughing while watching her.


The hardest lesson came when I realized that I'd never make a living as a librarian without a college degree.  Being a single parent made the choice easy, stay near family and finish my education.  Now raising a little girl,  I wanted to become an elementary teacher or librarian.


It was the quiet sincere librarian, Mrs. Watson, who had left the greatest imprint on my life by sincerely believing that books and reading could make a difference in our lives.  At Central Jr. High we had a 3rd floor study hall with a tiny room filled with books.  A few hours a day Mrs. Watson worked up there while her remaining time was in the real high school.  I loved to be in that hushed room and smell the paper and books.  Even when those ratty old boys became

obnoxious in study hall, little Mrs. Watson could quiet them down. High school was no different, a large study hall room and small dimly lit library, but again her smile and passion for reading set me at ease.  She handed me a thick historical romance and suggested I read it cover to cover. When I finished that book I felt empty on the inside, like I'd lost a friend or a family. It was about a woman who was to marry Napoleon, but fate changed her life. Perhaps, the pulse and heartbeat of love on the pages of a book changed my fate, too.

Mrs. Watson had me hooked for life, and now more than 50 years later and a career as a librarian and teacher, I still smile deeply inside hoping I made a difference in at least one person's life.  

  


    

16 comments:

  1. Lovely, Literally Letty! I’m another of the 6%--and I’m powerless to stop even now. I teach full load for HCC, 15 credit hours. I go at 8:00 & finish at 12:30. It’s another gig I absolutely love! Maybe I’ll retire again someday, but I haven’t caught the knack of it yet! mb

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember the first T-4-2 that Jane and I played in at The Highlands and you were our entertainment for the dinner at the tournament. You told a story, can’t remember what about, and that is how I got introduced to you! I thought you were great and so funny! Still are….nv

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dearest Letty,
    Let me assure you that you made a difference in many, many lives, including mine.
    Gayle and I love your stories. Look forward to them. cgs

    ReplyDelete
  4. Another great story. I had typing with Mrs. Wheeler and wanted to become a medical secretary, but got way laid when I joined the Future Medical Careers Club. We visited St. John's Hospital School of Nursing in Joplin and became a nurse instead. jr

    ReplyDelete
  5. Of the 5 people in our immediate family, only one, our son the attorney, is a 6%'er. The rest of us went to college for one thing or maybe (like me) three different things - and yet all of us became something else...........here's hoping our grandson has the ability to know and be just what he wants to be! Great story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've noticed that often attorneys and doctors were already leaning toward those careers in their early years. Guess that's how they had the focus to finish those degrees. Thank you for the note.

      Any chance the Norman bloggers may get together again??

      Delete
  6. Isn't it amazing how we end up right where we're suppose to be?? I can only imagine how many children who were blessed and inspired by Ms. Letty - their equivalent of Mrs. Watson!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is amazing how our paths weave around, but so much is our attitude as to how happy we are. Thank you for the kind words Shel.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a wonderful story. I too am one of the 6 percent. I've always wanted to be a writer. But, along the way, I was a library aide for many years. One of my greatest pleasures was when a student would come up to me and ask, "Mrs. Meyers, do you know any good books." "Oh yes," I'd reply. "I sure do."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely Susan, isn't it fun to hand out free books to eager learners. I miss being the librarian, but I still visit our pubic library frequently and check out paper books and Ebooks. What fun to have so many choices. Glad you made a difference with the young people in your life.

      Delete
  9. Beautiful story, Letty. I wanted to be a sportswriter and got a degree in journalism. Part way through college, I found out that there was a position in the Athletic Department called sports information director. I went down that road. Writing always has been and still is a central part of my life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it interesting to finally have the time to reflect on our lives and which paths we took. I'm so glad you are writing poetry now, and it was sports that connected us.

      Delete
  10. Really enjoyed this one - and without a doubt you did! cr

    ReplyDelete
  11. I remember Halloween in kindergarten. We visited the library as a class. We had to take our shoes off and enter some type of tent you put up. You were dressed up as a witch stirring a pot of witches brew and told us a story. I can't remember the story but I can remember my excitement of that day. I was sad to see you and Katy leave the next year.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi! As usual......so good!!! Love the bib overalls!!!! Smile

    Keep writing!!!! kt

    ReplyDelete