My mother, Betty (whose last name I will omit for my family's privacy), was the epitome of a strong, Southern woman. I hesitate to call her a "Southern belle" because she was so much deeper than that term implies. When she spoke, people listened...and I still get calls and letters from her friends who say they are always picking up the phone to call her for advice, although she went to heaven two years ago.
The gentleman who posted in the GenForum listing was a school teacher, who had "retired" from teaching to write textbooks. He told me that Miss Betty had been his inspiration to follow that path. I couldn't wait to tell her all about him and put them in touch with each other. Although she was not well that summer, as soon as I got to Greenville I arranged for him to call and they had a lovely chat over the phone. He later wrote to thank me and sent along a story he had written for publication some time earlier....a story of the impression "Miss Betty" made on him. Today, as we launch "Miss Betty Monday," I would like to share that story with you....
Greenville, South Carolina
School Year, 1956-1957
One morning Miss Betty was having our second grade class write about our wish.
What was our wish?
This was going to be a hard assignment for me, for I knew better than to tell your wish. You
wished it on a birthday cake before you blew out the candles. You wished it on a star.
You could pray for it. But you could not tell it. And writing it would be telling it.
But with Miss Betty, maybe I could write it. I had a crush on Miss Betty. No, I loved Miss Betty.
She had been my faculty carpool ride to school for two years now, and I loved her happiness, her
smiles, her clicking her long red nails on the steering wheel in rhythm to the radio music, her enthusiasm about learning phonics and reading and arithmetic, her blonde hair and
her bright green eyes, her youth, her energy, her laughter. I decided to go for it.
I grabbed the big round pencil and got the grainy tablet paper ready. I wrote:
"Miss Betty, don’t tell this, or it won’t come true. I wish it on the star. I wish it on birthday cakes. I want to fly. Like Superman! I wear a towel and run down hills but I never take off. It doesn’t work. I think happy thoughts but I don’t take off. So I want to fly. Like Superman. Like Peter Pan.
Don’t ever tell, ok?"
With some apprehension I turned in the paper. And I kept watching Miss Betty as she was
reading the papers and we were doing an arithmetic exercise. I kept looking up. She saw me and
smiled. I continued arithmetic and continued looking up. Finally I knew she had my paper, because she saw me looking, smiled, and nodded. I looked down. When I looked up again, she beckoned me into the hallway. There she gave me a big hug and whispered into my ear, “I’ll not tell. Not ever!”
And—amazing and wonderful! I got my wish.
Miss Betty was hugging me and telling me what I needed to hear, and I was flying! Like Superman!