May 20th, 2023
Tomorrow, I celebrate Ruth who turns 90 though she is ageless. She has asked me to speak at her birthday bash so I am sitting and sorting through my memories trying to land on the right spot to tell the best story I can.
I go back as far as I can. The birth of a star. The explosion of light and the beginning of consciousness. We all know what a soul mate is but not as many of us know the term twin flame. A twin flame begins with you when you begin. Together you both catapult out of the explosion of the same star, together you search the galaxy and fly alongside each other to evolve, incarnate, observe, create, learn, love. Ruth and I fly the same trajectory. We dart our eyes to the left and to the right making sure we stay the path, making sure that we are both safe and stay within reach. A twin flames job is to keep other twin flame on track. Twin flames don’t need each other in their day-to-day affairs. They don’t spend hours gazing deep into each other’s souls like soul mates do. They egg each other on. They require each other for the long and I mean l o n g haul.
When I was 18 I moved down from NY to DC to embark on my first semester at GWU. At the time I had no idea of this woman named Ruth. I was in fact all set to study political science and industrial relations. I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted order and kindness and systems that worked. I wanted people to get along and get good things done.
A sociology class required that I observe and take notes at a high school called School Without Walls. This magnet school was known for using creative solutions to keep inner city kids engaged and committed to their education.
My assignment landed me in Ruth’s sophomore English classroom. I remember stepping over the threshold into Ruth’s world. I remember the golden light that came in through the bared windows and her laugh that reminded me that she was no stranger.
In less than two weeks of being in her room Ruth came up to me and said, “Would you like to be more useful?”
Ruth knew that I was not just an observer. I was there to help and so help I did. And in that moment, she crashed into my path. I was headed off course to a corporate job, she put me on track to becoming a teacher.
After that anything I was asked to do I did. I sat in the hallway to tutor reading, I helped to engage kids that were lost, I helped grade papers. I stayed after class every time I could, to talk with her and learn from her. I ended up staying for three years.
By the end of the semester, I had switched my major. I was going to be an English teacher. When I told my parents they sounded encouraging over the phone. What I didn’t know then was that when they hung up they were baffled. You see I was just about one of the worst spellers you could imagine. I loved to read and I loved to write but my editing skills were terrible. Now I understand that I had some version of dyslexia. One that allowed me to read and comprehend but one that ruthlessly spun my letters around and around as I wrote. (as a side note ruthlessly to me means a world without Ruth)
Ruth didn’t care. I told her straight up, “I can’t spell. Really.” But she said. “ You connect.. you connect.. they need that.. and beside you know how to use that God awful computer, it checks your spelling and I need you”.
And connect I did. One day during my senior year while I was doing my student teaching under Ruth”s careful eye with eyebrow up , a student that I was close with confided in me that he wore a trench coat to school so he could keep his sawed off shot gun on him.
Back them there was no such thing as school shootings..imagine that.
I asked him where the gun was.
“In my locker” he said
“Do you have bullets?” I asked
“In my pocket.” He said
“Do you not feel safe in school? With us?”
“Yeah, I guess.” he said.. “It is just for getting here and getting home.”
I was not afraid of this young man or his gun. I loved him and saw his great potential. I also had Ruth. Very casually I pulled her aside pretending to talk about a paper in my hand.
At the end of class. Ruth just stood by the door. When the kid went to leave, she just took his arm. He turned and sat back down immediately.
Ruth closed the door and said, “Now why in the world did you bring a shot gun to school?”
I don’t remember what happened from there. All I know is that he wasn’t kicked to the curb, He would graduate. I also know that after that he stopped bringing his gun to school. Ruth disarmed him. She taught me that day how powerful connection and love is. She taught me that love and safety is all that kids really need to learn and grow.
One day we were talking about homework, she laughed and said, “Now how can you give a kid homework if they don’t have a home?”
She taught me how to get up in front of people and engage. She said, “Now don’t just ramble…it is not about what you know, it is about what they don’t’ know. Don’t lose them. Engage.”
She said, “No one really wants to be bored, they want to learn. Everyone wants to learn. It is innate. Most people find themselves to be the most interesting topic so just make everything about them.”
By the time I entered my own classroom I was very comfortable and prepared for connecting, loving and engaging people. I knew the subtle art of directness and the power of creating a safe space. My unorthodox approach to teaching made even my new coworkers curious about my training.
Ruth and I have been keeping an eye on each other now for over 33 years. We often joke that at night when we sleep we find each other, plop down behind awkward school room desks and go over our day. From time to time, we meet in person and with little nudges make sure we are both on track.
Our original and ancient light kindles. It sparks..and always it ignites and inspires.
Today I am here simply to say thank you Ruth, my twin flame, for keeping an eye on me. For keeping me on track. For always making me feel so very special and for making sure I never forget that I am a teacher, and like you a writer but most importantly your friend. No matter how I spell it.