Saturday, July 15, 2017

Passing of a Teacher

When I was in elementary school, the smart kids (of course I was one of them...) were presented with French lessons starting in first grade. The teacher was Madame Simpson and she was also the mother of my good friend Hester. Her mother had actually created the job and sold the school district on teaching kids French. When I would go to Hester's house to play, I often had to speak French and the one thing I remember about dinners is that they served salad after the main meal in the European fashion.

In any event, Madame Simpson became somewhat of an institution and we adored her and realized as adults what an amazing opportunity we were given. But today, Hester gave me the sad news that Madame had passed away peacefully. She was 99.  In addition to the language, Madame also taught us French culture and geography. In sixth grade, we went on a French class field trip to a New York City restaurant called Les Pyrenees and then on a tour of the Ile de France, which at that time was one of the luxury ocean liners. I still remember that day vividly.

To be honest, one thing I remember was the first course in the restaurant being liver pate and I wrapped mine in my napkin and the waiter realized what I had done, but just laughed. Never did like liver pate.

I asked Hester if she wanted me to tell the classmates and she said yes... so this is what I sent:

Hester told me today that Madame Simpson passed away peacefully last week. She said she had already told some classmates and I asked her if she wanted me to send a note to the entire class and she said yes.
For those of us whose lives were touched by Madame Simpson, her passing is a sad time. I told Hester the other day that I can still see her mother entering our class and saying "Bonjour Classe" and we'd reply in a chorus, "Bonjour Madame Simpson."
The first time I was in Paris in my 30s, I was on the Metro on a line that ran both above and below ground and all of a sudden out of the window I saw the Eiffel Tower and my immediate reaction was to gasp and think, "It's just like Madame Simpson showed us." I remember pictures of various Paris landmarks pasted on colored construction paper and we'd have to identify them.
We thank Madame for her zeal and grace and send our best thoughts to Hester in this very difficult time.

Me again: I was so sad about this and I realized that part of my sadness, a selfish part, is my own ageing. That as long as an elementary school teacher was still alive, I wasn't "the oldest" but now we are.

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