By Ralph Hood
(Note: This is an excerpt from Ralph’s book, “Southern Raised in the Fifties”.)
I have found a book that has me absolutely fascinated. It was written by a woman I have long heard of, but never known. It is my mother’s diary.
I never knew this woman simply because I did not know, and never will meet, the 21-year-old girl who later became my mother.
The most amazing thing I have learned so far is that this woman, who became perhaps the strongest single person I ever knew, was at one time a young, insecure person with doubts, worries, and fears. Such a thought never crossed my mind and is still hard for me to imagine.
Mother was fresh out of college and teaching before she was old enough to vote. She once wrote these words: “As yet, I don’t seem to be a successful teacher. I can’t make the children behave. They don’t seem to have much respect for me.” Could this possibly have been written by the same woman who only a few years later could and did control any classroom with but a raised eyebrow? No, it was not. This was written by the young girl who would later become that confident woman.
Obviously, she learned fast. By her second year teaching, she reported that, “I really believe that I am making more of a go of it at teaching this year.” Evidently, the students agreed, because she was by then getting good feedback from parents, other teachers, and the principal.
That reminds me of my first teaching experience in my mid-forties, teaching a college course in aviation management on a marine base in North Carolina. After the first day I called up Mother and told her that I couldn’t handle the job. I was so down in the dumps that I felt like crying, even at that age. Mother told me not to worry too much about it; I probably wasn’t doing as badly as I thought, and that it would get easier. She was right. After the second day, I called her back to say I was in love with teaching, had found my true calling, and was ready to quit my regular job and devote the rest of my life to teaching. She said maybe I should wait a bit before I did that. She was right again.
During Mother’s second year, by the way, she was teaching three Latin classes, one French class, and one history class. Yet she still had time to have fun.
Much of Mother’s diary was about dating. At age 21 she wrote, “I would like to devote all my time to learning how to act with boys. I probably need it more than I do Victorian prose and poetry.”
I am dumbfounded to learn that she ever, under any circumstance, wondered how to act. By the time I knew her, she always seemed so absolutely sure of who she was and exactly what she should do.
I haven’t finished the diary, yet. Still to come are her writings of meeting my father and of their courtship. I feel very much the voyeur, but I can’t wait!