Yes, there was frost on the ground in the Dallas suburbs today. A bit of fog too. And I mean that both literally and figuratively, in a very Robert Frost-ian sort of way. The air was clean and cold and crisp for a change. I could see, hear, breathe, and think well for a change in this gawd-awful city of death and decay. It was poetically, virtually, and monumentally a moment of clarity… such clarity that only three adjectives could possibly be enough to provide the complex understanding of my Robert Frost moment.
My typical apology for living, and for writing this, and for making you read it comes in the second paragraph today. You have to forgive me for being so much of an English teacher. Do you know who Robert Frost is? Frost is a great american poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times in the 20th Century. Does that really tell you who Frost is? Of course not. Only this does;
The Road Not Taken
a poem by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,,
And that has made all the difference.
Yes, like Robert Frost, I took the road less traveled by in life. Having a gift for creative writing, drawing cartoons, and generally being seriously silly and obtuse (and claiming that meant I was funny), I chose to not be a novelist and cartoonist when I was young. I chose to be a school teacher. Of course, if you pin me down and ask me, requiring me to answer before you let me up, and threatening to spit on my nose if I don’t answer, I will tell you that God really decided I needed to be a teacher. After all, I developed arthritis that effected how often and how long I could spend drawing. I had the usual novelist’s problem of a keen awareness of how to write, and no real life experiences to write about. But even though it was a holy mission from God, it was my own decision to become a teacher.
And look what I got from it. This is a picture of Freddy. I started this picture in 1986, drawing the portrait from a photo and from real life. Freddy was a vato loco from Cotulla. He is the sort of kid that teachers dread. He is the kind that if you let him sit in the back of the room, he will shoot spit-wads into the girls’ hair… but if you put him up front, he is constantly putting on a show, a stand-up-sit-down-again comedy routine for the entire classroom. And I had the honor of being his favorite teacher both in his seventh and eighth grade years. He made me laugh almost as much as he was laughing at me. He claimed he was a Mexican even though he was born in the U.S. and has always lived in the U.S. and if he goes to Mexico, they won’t understand his Texican version of Spanish without an interpreter. (Now, you probably already know that I never use real names of people I write about in order to protect the innocent… or in Freddy’s case the only-mildly-guilty. But I haven’t actually revealed his name in this post. Alfredo Giovanni is such a common name in Texas that you will never be able to find him through research. And Alfredo Giovanni is a name I made up anyway.) By the time I actually put the color on this picture, Freddy will no longer look even remotely like this. He’s in his late forties and Hispanic. He probably weighs at least ten times what his tiny self did back in 1986. But I was honored to know him and teach him, even though I have more than a few gray hairs on my head that he specifically caused.
And that brings me to my final movement in this classical opus. Here is the difference I have made by choosing the path I chose. Now that poor health has forced me to retire from teaching, and I have a limited time left to me to pick up the novelist/cartoonist thing again, I have done so with passion and insight that I would not otherwise have had. I have crafted a novel in The Magical Miss Morgan based entirely on my experiences as a classroom teacher. It is the best thing I have ever written in my life. And one of the main characters, the rapscallion leader of the Pirates’ Club, Timothy Kellogg… is Freddy in fictional form. Oh, it is true that the character is the son of a high school English teacher in my story, and he does have a lot in common with my own oldest son… but he is actually Freddy. The things he does and says (translated from Texican into Iowegian) and thinks and feels, are all Freddy. And how do I know what Freddy thinks and feels? Come on! I was Freddy’s favorite teacher. There is no way I would still be alive and sane unless I could read minds.
Two roads diverge on a frosty morning pathway in the park… One over the bridge into an entirely different life that I didn’t choose… and one that leads straight on into the new dawn… whatever the consequences of following it.