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Mrs. Thompson

Mrs. Thompson

 

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on

the very first day of school in the fall and told the children

a lie. Like most teachers. She looked at her pupils and said

that she loved them all the same, that she would treat

them all alike. That was impossible because there in front

of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs.

Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn’t play well with the

other children, that his clothes were unkept and that he constantly needed a bath. Teddy

was unpleasant. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take

delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the F

at the top of the paper biggest of all.

 

Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him, either. At

the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records

and put Teddy’s off until last. When she opened his file, she was in for a surprise. His

first-grade teacher wrote. “Teddy is bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh.” “He does

his work neatly and has good manners… he is a joy to be around.” His second grade teacher

wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because

his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third grade

teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard, but his mother’s death has been hard on

him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will

soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote. “Teddy

is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and

sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem.”

 

By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, but Christmas was coming fast. It was

all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and

she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard. Her children brought her presents,

all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in

the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in

the middle of the presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone

bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of

cologne. She stiffled the children’s laughter, when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet

was, putting it on, and a dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist. Teddy Stoddard

stayed behind just long enough to say, “Mrs.Thompson, today you smelled just like my

mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

 

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and speaking. Instead, she began

to teach children. Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they called “Teddy”.

As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the

faster he responded.

 

On days where there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember

that cologne. By the end of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the

class and …well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all

her children the same. A year later she found a note from Teddy, telling her that of all the

teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite. Six years went by before she

got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, had stuck

with it, and would graduate with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was

still his favorite teacher of all time.

 

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had

been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college

with the highest honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that she

was still his favorite teacher, but now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed,

Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

 

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring.

Teddy said he’d met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died

a couple of years ago and he was wondering.. well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the

pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. And guess what, she wore that bracelet,

the one with several rhinestones missing and I bet that on that special day, Jean Thompson

smelled just like … well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their

last Christmas together.

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