Even after many years, she still has not forgotten the last day her whole class got together to say goodbye to their dearest school days. The gloomy faces, the watery eyes, the loving embraces, the firm handshakes promising to seek each other again up hill and down dale... those unforgettable memories always become vivid every time nostalgia drives her feet towards the old school, only to find a big, old tree with all of their names carved deep into the trunk.
She wonders herself if any of them still remembers their promises, now that time has cloaked the past memories with layers of dust and transformed each fate beyond any expectations.
The jolly "dwarf" of the class has now turned into a successful businessman. The shy, skinny "bookworm" is now a talented Ph.D. trying his luck in some distant land in the Western atmosphere. The naughty, giggly tomboy has thrown away her carefree laughter in exchange for a sheltered, comfortable life beside a caring husband. And she, a literature addict, was driven by an inner force to put her pen aside and become a teacher instead. That's a life-choice, an abandonment of her dream about which she will never feel regret.
She decided to follow her old teacher, who had sowed the seed for the cause of nurturing people in her directionless mind through his poetical lessons. She used to dream of the enlightened faces of her students engrossed in her lessons full of sunlight and sea waves.
She had also dreamed of their round eyes running over every page of the books containing expanses of the light and darkness of life. Yet, at the most decisive turn of her life's course, she didn't choose literature for her career, for she had been told that literature is just like a magical paradise to which the way is extremely rough.
Travelers always keep in their heart a boundless aspiration for happiness, though they know very well that their ultimate goal will never be achieved.
Her hands are so small; how can they hold the immensity, the depths and the fullness that literature can bring? Still, she promises herself to go ahead, bearing in mind the last words of her dear teacher:
"Don't care for what you give or receive. Learn to live generously to enjoy life, even when it's not generous toward us."
This teaching was not written in his lesson plan, but she knew it would stay with her until the end of time.
Now, she is a teacher, yet she has to continue learning numerous difficult lessons of life. The more she experiences, the better she understands the value of her teacher's last lesson.
And now, among the heaps of unemotional personal pronouns, possessive pronouns and language structures in her own lesson plans, no leafy afternoons or sunny skies can be found yet the lessons of the old days have never faded away. Instead, they are revived in her teaching style. She has given her students the whole-hearted enthusiasm and tenderness that she once received from her teacher.
Now and then, she catches sight of a warm look in the eyes of her students, which encourages her to carry on. She hopes to find herself again in her students: always listening carefully and appreciating each lesson. To her, that will be the noblest award she could ever receive in her teaching years.
She tells herself to try her best to understand and take life at its deepest. And some day, when she has enough experience and confidence, she will give her students the teachings that are not written in the lesson plans, as her teacher used to do.
Copyright © 2009 Do Thi Dieu Ngoc
Do Thi Dieu Ngoc is a university teacher and an amateur writer for a bilingual magazine in Vietnam.