Friday, April 15, 2005

For there is no tale of greater woe

then the story of Juliet and her Romeo.

Just finished watching the remake of Romeo and Juliet, the one with Claire Danes and Leonardo DeCaprio in it (did I just totally butcher his last name?!)

I remember Dr. Dickon, his faux British accent and his use of the word "schedule" pronounced "said-jul". ~eye twitch~ And I remember our discussions, in great depth, regarding a story vs. a tragedy. Dr. Dickson wasn't always Dr. Dickson. He was just Mr. Dickson. My brother, being (at the time) gifted, and three years older than me, had Mr. Dickson first. He taught the gifted English course at Bell High School. 11th Grade. So in 11th grade, here comes Brett's little sister. To meet the ever intimidating Mr. Dickson.

For those that don't know me quite that well (yet) and for those that know nothing of my brother, we are extreme opposites. Of course, we're both adopted, so we share no genes at all. And yet throughout our childhood, I competed against him. I don't know why. My parents...err..OUR parents, never compared us. And really, you couldn't. I was vivacious and outgoing, charming people as a small child. Brett was quiet and reserved. I was a leader, and he, a follower. I demanded attention. He preferred not to have any at all. Our dad has always said, "If you put Brenda in a room with 20 strangers, she'll come out knowing something about every single person. If you put Brett in a room with the same 20 strangers, they'll never know he was there."


So why did I compete with him in every aspect of our lives? I have no idea. But I did. Sports and grades. He played baseball. I played softball. We both played basketball. He had football, I had volleyball. And oh, how my body is now paying for the intense damage I did to it all those years. But it wasn't only on sports. It was with the grades, as well. Brett was in honors, so I was, too. And therefore, we had a lot of the same teachers.

Which brings me back to Mr. Dickson. Mr. Dickson taught 11th grade gifted English. I had him in 11th grade, following in my big brother's footsteps. Mr. Dickson tormented me like no other before him. My teachers, especially male, were pretty much wrapped around my fingers. I mean, how many 14 year olds are built like they're 25. Not their fault (no, nothing nasty ever happened, but I know I got special treatment. Poor Coach Massie...a smile would make him give me damn near anything I asked for.) But Mr. Dickson, although not immuned to my charm, was tougher than most. And condescending as hell. *I* am condescending, but I still have to bow to the Master: Mr. Dickson.

And then, as my luck has always been (not good, btw), the end of my 11th grade year brought an announcement: The 12th grade honors teacher for English was retiring. Mr. Dickson was taking her place. Yes, that's right. I ended up having him for two freakin' years. ~big, tired, dramatic sigh here~

And he drove me insane. Literally. And over the course of the summer, between grades eleven and twelve, he finished his doctorate in English. As we began our senior year, we got reintroduced to him, this time, as Dr. Dickson.

To say he drove me crazy is not an exaggeration, though I know I'm prone to that little character flaw at times. (What do you EXPECT?! I'm a W R I T E R!) Not only me, but a couple of my friends as well. As I stood in the school's office, screaming at the top of my lungs with "I am going to kill you!" at him, I knew he'd pushed me one time too hard.

And I think that's when he realized it, too. The look on his face wasn't fear, wasn't disappointment. It was sadness. Like...I he had failed. Or perhaps I'd failed him. I'm not sure. Perhaps he thought I was stronger than I was. I put on a good show. I do. Confidence radiates, sexuality oozes, blah blah blah. Yeah yeah, been told all that a billion times. Those are the walls. Not many get past the walls. And nothing, not even the tallest of walls, erases the memory of his face at that moment.

Now, you have to take a step back and remember that we didn't have things like school shootings back then (this was 1988), so the threat was considered an empty one, unlike what would happen if I were to say it today as a student. No one really thought I was going to kill him, or that I even really WANTED to. It was pure rage, uncontrolled fury, lashing out at him.

My GPA had been steadily dropping. My school, grades 10-12, had over 3,000 students. My graduating class, on the day of graduation (this doesn't include drop-outs, moves, and all that jazz) was 667. That's a lot of kids. And I was falling out of the top 10% with a steady and sure passing of each report card. And he was on my ass about it. And then he found me screaming in the office.

There are parts here that I'll skip because they're very dark, and I don't think anyone truly wants to know what happened. But Dr. Dickson, with his faux British accent, was the one to call our names as we crossed the podium on graduation day. In the Tarrant County Convention Center, downtown Ft. Worth, his voice boomed through the dome, echoing my name, ringing it in my ears.

And as I approached him, he smiled. A real smile. Not a condescending smile. I had redeemed myself.

I had on my honors robes and my honors ropes around my neck. I'd done it. I'd saved myself in the last stretch of the race. I had my grades up and I was graduating with honors and in the top 10% of a huge graduating class. And at home, on the kitchen table, was a letter offering a partial scholarship to a private university, and a book with my name and my picture in it: Who's Who Among American High School Students. To be in that book, a student has to be recommended by a teacher. To this day I don't know who the recommendation came from, but I have my ideas.

After that day, I never saw him again. Not even that day, but that MOMENT. The ceremony was over, school was out. The convention center was flooded, to say the least, with the family members of the 667 students. That was the last time I saw Dr. Dickson.

I hear he's a counselor at the school now. And when (not if) I get published, he's one of the first people I will send a copy off to. I think he knew, even then, that I'd write. Heck, one of my best friends from high school, who also shared in the woes that was Dr. Dickson's class, came to my parents house the other day. I'd not seen her in ..I don't know...9 years. I mention the word "agent" in passing, and she said: "You did it, didn't you? You finally wrote a book." And I grinned. Yes, it's almost expected from those that knew me so well back then.

So here we are, finishing a tragedy tonight on DVD. I cannot think of any of the plays of The Great One without thinking of Dr. Dickson. Standing in his class and reciting Hamlet. Reading Romeo & Juliet and seriously DISCUSSING it and the greatness that it is.

So here's to you, Dr. Dickson. May you continue to drive your students insane and praying they're all worthy of your redemption.


Nic said...

I so love this post. Very poignant.

Mo said...

Oh...okay, the replies come AFTER the post *slaps forehead*

Yes, Brenda, this is the writing from you that I so look forward to reading...Good stuff. really.

Keep it up.