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I like the sound of the word “meandering”. For me it creates an image of a pleasant, thoughtful, calm and unhurried stroll through time. Some words are flat and harsh, but meandering seems soft and pleasant. Yes, I like it and I enjoy doing it!

Lately I often find myself waking up in the wee hours of the morning, much too early to get up, and when I glance at the clock my aging body cries, “Oh, no” and refuses to move. I try to get back to sleep but my thoughts are persistent; they begin slipping in, one after the other —
 and that is when I begin my “meandering in memory.”

One of the earliest memories I have is of my first grade teacher. Her name was Miss Amy Cummings, and I thought she was the most beautiful lady in the whole world. I put her on a pedestal, adoring her.

In May, near the end of the school year, she supervised an event called Winding the Maypole. Long strips of colored crepe paper were attached to the top of a tall pole and each child was to follow a precise pattern of crisscrossing the strips, winding in and out until the pole was covered. Needless to say, mistakes were often made at practice, and one day I was the culprit. Miss Amy was quite frustrated and swatted me on my little back side. I was crushed and in tears; how could she do this to me when I loved her so much? I truly don’t remember how that session ended, but the final production was a thing of beauty!

One evening in the early 1990’s I received a telephone call from an unknown person in Midland, Texas. A woman explained that she had been told I knew Amy Cummings, who was coming to Arizona to go to Mayo Clinic. She asked if I would be willing to help Amy when she arrived. Of course I agreed; then was struck with the realization that I had no idea what she would look like now. So, I made a large poster saying “Welcome, Miss Amy” and held it up high at Sky Harbor airport. It worked and we met, after many, many years not seeing one another.

She was seventy five, so she did not resemble any memory I had of her. (I’m sure that was mutual). Over lunch at my home we began to fill in the gaps of years apart. She had been a victim of breast cancer and undergone a double mastectomy at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota at a time when it was rare, especially in a small town in Texas. She recovered with the help of her husband’ s devoted care. He insisted that she do her therapy and rigged up a pulley over a door, forcing her to raise her arms up high. She said she cried from the pain, but it worked and she ended up cancer free and able bodied.

During our long conversation she revealed that her husband had been the sheriff of Midland County and was killed on duty. She decided to fill out his term herself. She informed me, in her own words, “I wore the uniform and packed a gun,” then added, “Thankfully I never had to use it.”

By this time I was rather overwhelmed by this strong, rugged woman who bore absolutely no resemblance to the one of my childhood. My husband and I drove her out to the local Mayo Clinic for her three day check-up, and then returned her to Sky Harbor for her trip back home to Midland, Texas.

It had been a rather strange, almost surreal reunion, and I was glad that the teacher-student relationship had been broken. Instead we were now simply two women, sharing our life stories together.

Billye Butler

Billye’s interests are writing letters and reading, especially poetry, and keeping alive friendships and family ties.

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