When I was little, I loved everything about the start of a new school year— the swish of crinoline ruffled petticoats underneath crisply starched, frilly dresses Mother made me; slipping my feet into my new saddle oxford shoes; Mother and I rummaging our way down the aisles of our neighborhood TG&Y purchasing school supplies, then stopping on the way home at Landers Corner Store where every neighborhood kid received an empty cigar box for storing school supplies. Once home, I proudly printed my name on the outside of my cigar box and carefully placed my school supplies inside.
I can still smell the potent fumes of the rubber cement with its snotty-like consistency, can feel the wax crayons in my hand, and can imagine grasping my Huskey #2 pencil pretending to print my ABCs and 123’s on my Big Chief tablet. Nothing was more exciting than heading back to school with my new plaid metal lunch box in one hand and my cigar box filled with school supplies in the other.
Nothing, however, compared to the thrill of meeting my teachers. I adored them, hung on their every word, and wanted to be just like them. When the school year ended, I missed school terribly. I filled the summertime void practicing school with the neighborhood children whom I corralled onto our huge front porch, my makeshift school and taught them using a small slate board Mother bought me.
One summer, Mother showed me a family heirloom—a vintage teaching bell “This bell,” she explained, “once belonged to my grandmother, Ivy Catherine Morain, who used it in her one-room classroom on the Kansas prairie in the 1890s. When your grandfather became a teacher, she gave it to him making him Keeper of the Bell. He, in turn, gave it to me when I began teaching. If you promise to be careful with it, you may use it in your one-room classroom.” Delighted, I took the bell outside keeping it safe and occasionally clanging it to announce when my school was beginning.
When I entered college, education was naturally my career choice. Upon graduation, Mother gave me Ivy’s bell. “You’re now Keeper of the Bell; you’re also the keeper of children’s hearts and spirits.” I was Keeper until my husband received his teaching certificate; he was Keeper until our niece received hers. She was Keeper until her sister began teaching. She’s the current Keeper.
Each new Keeper was told the oral history of the former Keepers including personal details about their lives and careers. Concerned that oral history would disappear, I researched and wrote more about the Keepers, making their stories more interesting. The result was a 120-page notebook with photos and related documents.
Compiling the Bell Book was a soulful labor of love. It was also important. Why? Alex Haley aptly said, “…the family’s the link to the past and the bridge to the future.” I’m gratified knowing I did my part in linking our family’s past to its future.
A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing.
Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.