My mother was an English teacher in rural north-central Alabama. She taught at the same school in the same town her entire 30-plus year career which meant she taught two successive generations of Blount County teenagers.
She was an exceptional teacher, and she loved teaching and loved her students. Over the years, she taught every grade, but her favorites were the seventh graders. She thought they were the best combination of wild and sweet.
Like every teacher does, she had a million stories, some hilarious and some horrifying, about her students and their lives. No one who knew Mother has not heard the story about Rose and the homecoming confetti.
But that story was not my favorite. I always preferred The Lasagna Incident.
Mother was a talented seamstress, and she made all her own clothes. In the early 70’s, she had a very chic, white wrap-around skirt that she had made. A teacher wearing white to school was a pretty daring move, but I guess Mom though she could carry it off.
It happened that lasagna was served in the school lunchroom that day, and of course she accidentally dropped a big blob of it, full of bright orange grease, right in her lap. The thin little lunchroom napkins did nothing to protect her white skirt. Nothing was removing that stain, so she spent the rest of the day with a big orange Rorschach blot across the front of her thighs. By next class period, she had explained the blob about fifty times to curious 12 year olds. It became so tiresome and distracting that she finally took off her cardigan sweater and tied it around her waist like an apron, so that the spot was covered.
The last class period of the day, Mother was standing outside her open classroom door, waiting for the “late” bell to hurry the last stragglers into the classroom. One of the stragglers was a perennially late, bright-eyed little motor mouth named Joey.
Joey came tearing down the hall and skidded to a stop in front of Mother, words tumbling out of his mouth.
“Mrs. Patterson,” (in his native tongue it was pronounced Miz PAIR-sun) “Miz Pairsun, what happened?”
Mother sighed and launched into the explanation of the lasagna incident, lifting her cardigan apron to show Joey the stain. When she finished, she saw that Joey’s eyebrows were drawn together in puzzlement.
“Oh.” he said. “But, Miz Pairsun, I meant what happened to yer hair?”