Somewhere over the Arkansas-Louisiana border at 40,000 feet I was startled out of my daydreaming state by an announcement coming over the cabin microphone: “Kelly from Edmond? Would you please turn on your call light?”
“Cripes,” I thought to myself. Then I said it aloud. “Cripes! I probably dropped my wallet or something.” I was talking half to myself and half to an OSU student I had met who had lots of questions about flying. She was sitting across the aisle from me grinning. “Um…” I started. Then I made eye contact with the flight attendant who was standing in the first class section and waved weakly. “Here I am…” My voice trailed off. I felt like a child.
The flight attendant saw me, smiled way bigger than should have fit a wallet-losing scenario, and began making her way down the aisle. When she reached me, she held out her hand and offered me a piece of paper that looked like airline-logo-stuff. “Here you go,” she said. “The people in seats one and two sent these to you as their compliments.”
I turned the paper over. Printed on the back were two coupons, good for a snack or a drink. I glanced up at her, “Um. Well, thanks! Can I buy a ‘hug coupon’ from you and send it their way??” She smiled and returned to the front.
The gift was from the parents of a former drama student of mine I taught approximately 18 years ago. However, he wasn’t just any student. This was one of those students who wrestled his way into my heart no matter how hard I tried to keep the door shut. He was brilliant, mischievous (okay, he was a real brat), in trouble constantly, and to this day I still hear from him about once a year. As I fidgeted with the coupons, my thoughts drifted backward…
I allowed him to borrow my car once because his was blocked in and I needed someone to pick up pizza for our set construction day. He did. He wanted to do something nice for me. So, he drove my car five miles further than I expected, filled up my gas tank with his father’s credit card, then drove away with the gas line and pump still attached to my car. This was before they had “break-away” hoses, so he pulled the entire pump over, and my insurance paid out a $6800 settlement six months later. A week after that, the gas station closed it’s doors. Go figure.
This same kid attended at least three of my children’s birthday parties, made a brief showing at my daughter’s wedding, came by for my younger daughter’s high school graduation party, and dressed up as a gumball machine for one particular party when they were younger. He tied a 55 gallon translucent garbage bag around his knees, filled it with all colors of inflated balloons, then taped the top around his neck. Oh, and two days after my hysterectomy I was lying on my couch at home recovering when he and his new bride stopped their “get away limo,” ran into my house, and gave me a hug in their wedding clothes before leaving for their honeymoon.
This is the same kid that stole the 6-foot blue hippo from a car wash on Broadway in Edmond, pulled the main power breaker during a packed high school basketball game, super-glued quarters to the high school ceiling, ran around every day for one year with an extra large can of hairspray in his back pocket, and used to hide condoms in random places in my desk at school…and in my purse…and in my books in my classroom…
He is the kid who got extremely serious one day before he graduated and said, “Mrs. Roberts, when you’re 80 and I’m 65, can we please meet on a bench in a park somewhere and talk all day long about how our lives turned out?”
This is the same kid that, on an Arts Club trip to Eureka Springs decided to invent some social commentary on how incredibly “apparent” men’s genitalia are in ballet leotards by donning his sister’s black body suit and over-stuffing the crotch area with an entire roll of toilet paper. The parent chaperones and I heard a commotion around the indoor pool as other students spied him first, speeding down the hall toward us doing running split leaps over and over as he got closer and closer. Oh, but that bulge was massive. As we struggled with our shock and awe, he put an exclamation point on his dance by leaping into the pool. As his body sunk to the bottom, bubbles started boiling up…then toilet paper…massive quantities of toilet paper, designed to break apart in water, and they were coming up out of the pool like a geyser. When the student finally came up for air, he looked around to see the top of the pool completely covered in little bits of paper that was quickly getting sucked into the pump. Yes, the pool filter got clogged. Yes, we had to pay to have it repaired.
It was two weeks after the swimming pool issue that I found myself in a McDonald’s down the road from the school, leaning forward, POINTING my finger at this student’s parents and saying something like, “YOUR SON….!” I vividly remember what happened next. His father, who was 52 at the time and a perfect gentleman, reached over the table, put his hand over my finger, and lowered my hand downward. Then he said, “I’m not sure pointing will change the boy’s behavior, Kelly.”
These were the parents that sent me the drink coupons. I later caught up with them after we exited the plane. They now have 10 grandchildren, they were headed to Palm Beach to celebrate her birthday, and gave me at least three or four hugs. It was a delightful encounter.
And yes, I can almost guarantee I’ll meet that kid in the park when I’m 80. But I’d better bring lunch…and maybe dinner. If we’re going to catch up, we’ll need sustenance.