Tuesday’s post on the power of teachers — and the importance of thanking them — brought plenty of positive comments.
It also elicited this story from an “06880” reader, who wished to remain anonymous.
I had Shirley Hodes for Latin at Staples. She was also the advisor to Inklings, so I spent a fair amount of time with her. She was a wonderful teacher.
Most of the kids were goofballs and rowdy in her Latin class. But she plugged on, determined to teach us something about language, history and life in general.
As earnest as she was about teaching, she was far from naïve. Once, during a test, she said to the class: “I’m going to step out of the room for a minute. I would appreciate it if everyone stopped cheating until I get back.” She was so ironic that way. I loved her class.
About a dozen years after I graduated, in the summer of 1998, I was traveling in Italy and visited the ruins of Pompeii. In Latin class we had an entire unit built around a fictional family living in Pompeii, shortly before the volcano decimated the city. So of course it reminded me of Mrs. Hodes.
I bought a postcard, wrote a note thanking her for her meaningful class and the influence it had on me, but (in that pre-internet era) I did not have her address. So I called my mom from Italy, told her about the postcard, and asked her to please check the phonebook and call Mrs. Hodes to get her address (I recalled that she lived in Weston or Wilton).
A few days later, still in Italy, I called my mom back for the address. She was all shaken up.
She said: “You’re not going to believe this. I found the number and called the house. A man answered. I asked if this was the residence of Shirley Hodes, the teacher at Staples.
“He asked me why I was calling, and I told him. He said she died 2 days ago.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was so upset that she didn’t get my postcard. But I did the next best thing: I mailed it anyway, hoping her relatives would get it and know that she was appreciated.
It’s amazing: Sometimes the coincidences in life are stranger than the wildest fiction.